Ken Dockendorf is rallying opposition to the changes to high school sports governance. (The News files)

Ken Dockendorf is rallying opposition to the changes to high school sports governance. (The News files)

Maple Ridge coaches oppose changes to high school sports governance

Vote coming on May 1 could change varsity sports across B.C.

Two Maple Ridge high school coaches are speaking out against a new sports governance model in the province they say will push traditional teacher/coaches onto the bench.

Longtime Maple Ridge Ramblers coach Ken Dockendorf, president of the BC High School Boys Basketball Association, says his organization would become redundant if B.C. School Sports is successful in a vote coming up on May 1. It would mean all school sports and championship events would be run by B.C. School Sports.

“On May 2, we’re done,” said Dockendorf. “It’s a government bureaucracy that’s being imposed.”

He clarified the 75-year-old association could continue on, but “without any authority.”

The association has organized the provincial tournament, which is held every year at the Langley Events Centre, and Dockendorf says has become one of the great amateur sporting events in the province. Sixteen teams in each of the four tournaments – from single A to quad A – battle for their B.C. championships. It’s an annual event that brings intense competition, television cameras, provincial sports writers and sponsorship dollars.

“We worked at it for 10 years to create that,” said Dockendorf. “It’s a great experience for the kids.”

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The provincial track and field championships is another sporting event many athletes strive to qualify for, and will then remember for the rest of their lives. It’s an event another longtime Ramblers track coach, Andrew Lenton, has helped to build.

The track guru, who is also the head coach of the Langley Mustangs, said the BC School Sports governance model will marginalize the passionate teacher-coaches who have built school sports. He is the commissioner of B.C. High School Track and Field, and heads an executive council.

“Teacher/coaches will have no influence in future decisions,” he said, adding they will be advisors only. “You can take advice, or you can leave it. We (would) have no authority to make decisions.”

The revenue generated from the championships is re-invested into high school track and field, but he expects that will not happen under the proposed new model. It would go into general revenue for BC School Sports.

That organization, he points out, is run by paid staff members, whereas the high school sports associations benefit from the work of volunteers working for the love of their games.

“They say the new model is more education focused, but we have a hard time seeing that,” Lenton said.

The track coach said there have already been conflicts with BC School Sports. For example, the parent organization doesn’t want there to be provincial championship banner for combined boys and girls team points. It would rather there be only one for girls, and one for boys. The rationale given to Lenton, is simply that it should be consistent with other provincial championships.

But, he points out, the combined team banner is a tradition that has carried on since 1967.

“What this really is about, is control and centralized decision making,” said Lenton. “It’s about money, and tapping into the revenue streams for about five main sports.”

READ ALSO: Rambler to join the Varsity Blues

He said nobody from his executive council was part of the process of creating the new governance model. Nor were the commissioners from the other sports.

“We were deliberately left out,” Lenton said.

Dockendorf pointed out the proposed bureaucracy would see basketball organizers dealing with 11 different committees in order to make the decisions now being made by the association.

“It’s definitely going to make it more difficult to make timely decisions,” he said.

He has sent information to coaches, hope they will talk to their athletic directors and principals prior to the vote.

The new governance model is being promoted by B.C. School Sports, saying it will offer more “transparency, sustainability and equity between stakeholders.”

The vote on the new governance model will require a two-thirds majority of votes by the province’s 450 athletic directors and principals at the May 1 BCSS AGM.

The BCSS staff would oversee five different operating committees for championship hosts, sports advisory, history and archives, rankings and scholarships. There would also be nine different policy committees.

The BCSS says the new governance structure would provide more educated decision making, and uniform policy decisions. It also says there are financial “challenges in transparency and accountability,” in the current system.

“The current commission model does not allow a global corporate approach towards sponsorship to support the operations of the organization,” says the governance proposal.

It also says there are a variety of bylaws and policies in each high school sport, that contribute to athletic director burnout.

Dockendorf points out this administrative change could potentially come as high school sports attempt to rebound from a long pandemic shut down. By September, there will have been no school competition for 17 months.

“Why do it now, when we’re going to have the most difficult startup ever.”

Rick Thiessen, the president of B.C. School Sports, addressed some of the criticism of the model in a letter to stakeholders.

On the lack of voice for coaches, he said there are numerous operational committees coaches can be part of.

READ ALSO: Pitt Meadows coaching legend Rich Goulet dies

There has been criticism of the new voting system, which will replace one vote per school with three votes per zone – regardless of the number of schools in each zone.

Thiessen said the in recent general meetings 42 per cent of the membership voted, but many were by proxy or advance votes. Only 16 per cent voted in person. That led to two or three people carrying large numbers of proxy votes “to control the direction of the organization.”

He added the new system will eliminate proxy and electronic votes, to ensure the people discussing and voting on issues are well informed and present for all discussion.

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