Girls’ tennis season moves from fall to spring, sparks controversy


Graphic by Izzy Guimaraes

Kenna Krueger, Staff Writer

Recent changes in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) regulations of girls’ tennis forced Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to switch the girls tennis season from the fall to the spring.

Per MPSSAA regulations, girls’ tennis must be switched to the spring season in order to give athletes a higher chance of qualifying for and participating in the regional and state championship competitions. Other than MCPS, all other counties in Maryland already have the girls tennis season in the spring. The decision to regulate the season was made in late 2017, but put into place during this 2018-2019 school year.

MCPS athletic administrators along with both PHS girls and boys tennis teams are opposed to the idea of having both seasons in the spring. According to the Frequently Asked Questions page on the MCPS website, MCPS has opposed the idea of switching the girls’ season for years. A main issue for both athletes and coaches is shared practice times. Junior tennis player Molly McCutcheon explains that Poolesville HS being one of the only schools in MCPS with just four tennis courts makes it very difficult to have a reasonable practice schedule. With only four courts, it is impossible to have the boys and girls practice together, ultimately resulting in split practice times.

Boys tennis player junior Surya Padmanabhan talked about how late practices causes athletes to get home later, and not have as much time to do their homework and other activities.

In an effort to split practice times evenly, the schedules alternate. One week the boys will practice from 2:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the girls follow from 4:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., and the next week it will switch. Girls tennis coach Andrew Johnson explained that because some Poolesville students have an eighth period, starting practice too early presents challenges for them. Similarly, some athletes rely on taking the RideOn public bus home, and a late end to a practice can change transportation methods.

Johnson opposed the switch “based on concerns over equity and participation.” He felt as though girls who play in the fall have “no competitive advantage” over girls playing in the spring, in regards to the state tournament.

“We are asking much more of our student athletes than before, and my concern is this places stress on their time management,” said Johnson. Athletes will get home later than before, causing them to start their homework later. The overwhelming stress of homework alone on students is pushed by these later start times.

The regional and state tennis competitions for both boys and girls tennis take place in the spring. MPSSAA decided that athletes will only be allowed to compete in the state competition if their season coincides with that of the state competition. MCPS cited “gender equity” as their reason for changing the season to comply with MPSSAA rules, making sure both boys and girls will get the opportunity to participate in the state competition. While the switch makes it harder for both teams to get practice times in, there is a benefit. Smaller schools like Poolesville now have an easier chance to advance to the state tournament, with the introduction to the classification system similar to the 1A/2A/3A/4A system found in most other sports.