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Competitive imbalance, indeed!

Lamar County school superintendent Dr. Jute Wilson did the right thing recently when he penned a missive to GHSA officials, members of its reclassification committee and others regarding what he termed ‘competitive imbalances’ in Class A athletics. Lamar County was reclassified to Class A, Div. I at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

Wilson noted that only one Class A public school team, the Heard County softball team, had won a state championship. A few days later, the Trojan golf team finished second in its sectional and qualified for the state tournament. The local golfers were second only to The Darlington School, a large private school with a rich history. Darlington beat Lamar by 40 strokes.

Competitive imbalance, indeed!
For the past five years, I have had the privilege of helping coach the LC middle school girls soccer team. Prior to that, I followed the youngest daughter around as she played select and high school soccer. I feel confident enough to speak on this imbalance when it comes to soccer.

Next year’s Lady Trojan varsity team will be the strongest, most talented in its history. Were there just similar sized public schools on the schedule, they could very possibly win a state championship.

But, they will have to go through Paideia, which beat them 9-1 in the Elite 8 this season, and Mt. Vernon which defeated Paideia in the state final 3-1. Paideia and Mt. Vernon compete in the same region.

The LC boys soccer team was loaded with senior talent this year. It could have been their year to win it all. They, too, faced Paideia in the Elite 8 and were trounced 9-0.

It was obvious in warmups that the Pythons had the much more talented squad. Their coach was a South African gentleman whom I have run across before. His team was surgical in dismantling the Trojans and made it look easy.

It was a clinic and, if I am honest, a pleasure to watch his team operate and I told him so after the game.

The biggest complaint you hear about private schools and athletics is that they recruit players. Athletes enroll and then pay no tuition or just partial tuition. High school tuition at Paideia, at last report, was over $30,000 annually.

Paideia may not recruit players. I certainly don’t have any proof that they do. I am certain that their varsity soccer teams did not consist of players who tried out in January. Those were year round travel teams wearing the Paideia uniform.

The Pythons and those like them will continue to have a chokehold on championships in Class A until something is done. Perhaps Wilson’s appeal will prove to be the catalyst that discussion needs.

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