Sports…they’re back! Hopefully, football is right around the corner, because this country needs it badly – at all levels.
When the Kaw Valley League folded a few years ago, which included Mill Valley going independent before going to the Eastern Kansas League and now the Sunflower League, I thought conference movements were over for the time being. I thought the newly formed United Kansas Conference, a makeup of 5A teams for the most part, was a nice blend of teams across the metro that were competitively balanced plus Shawnee Heights out of Topeka.
I thought most of the former KVL teams found a great home in the Frontier League, which is made up of mostly 4A schools. However, after moving from the KVL to the Frontier League, Piper is returning home of sorts to join the UKC in two years along with Topeka Seaman and Topeka West.
I think aligning with schools of similar size rather than by strict geographic location is a smart move by these schools. While administrations don’t want the burden of long travel – it can be a strain on budgets – it’s an opportunity for balanced competition while also allowing each of the teams to prepare for the postseason.
I thought Mill Valley was at home with the EKL, which is a nice mix of 6A and 5A, but the move to the Sunflower League makes a lot of sense because it puts the Jaguars in a conference with the other Shawnee Mission schools and while they’re on the verge of 6A in the very near term, it allows them to battle with their playoff competition week in and week out.
While championships are always a goal, having the right conference makeup, I think, allows for players to develop closer to their potential. They may be more invested if they know they have a shot at winning a game on a Friday night instead of going out there to get blown out.
Where’s the fun in knowing you have no chance to be competitive?
After all, we must remember this is a game, but it’s also a nice distraction from the world around us.