Decatur sports region change

March 24, 2016

Every two years, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) reclassifies school sports regions. They consider school population before rearranging schools according to the size of their student bodies.

Currently, Decatur is in 4-AAA. With the new classification, we will be in zone 4 region 5A from 2016 to 2018. This means Decatur is getting bigger. As a result, we’ll compete against larger schools.

GHSA reclassified Decatur into region 4-AAAA, but sports leaders at our school chose to move up to 5A. Carter Wilson, Decatur’s athletic director since 1999, says that the decision was a lengthy one.

“The decision was not a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Wilson said. “The DHS administration and head coaches met for almost a year in preparation for this move.”

Overall, Wilson believes the change will push Decatur to its fullest athletic potential.

“The new region will allow us to be competitive, to miss less time out of school and to build rivalries with schools with similar missions as ours,” Wilson said.

Wilson stayed proactive with GHSA throughout the process of reclassifications. David Harbin, Decatur alumnus and varsity soccer head coach, also influenced this decision.

“Decatur has grown significantly,” he said. “Our numbers put us in 4-AAAA, and then we chose to move up to 4-AAAAA because of schools that we could have been put into a region with.”

Schools submit their student body size to the GHSA. Then, the GHSA organizes schools into regions based on size. This year, they removed the top 48 schools, and divided the remainders into classifications.

A school’s classification is based on their population and their region is based on proximity to other schools. For a school to make playoffs, they have to finish in the top two or four of their region, depending on the sport. Once a school gets into the playoffs, they enter a bracket where their region is split up, so it’s possible that they compete against schools from their region. Schools are always paired with different teams in the playoffs.

According to Harbin, the GHSA presents information in a staggered form. This means they tell initially what the school’s population is, and then they release a list of the four hundred-plus high schools and where you fall on that list.

Harbin says Decatur and their sports representatives “wanted to find the best fit for us.” He and other representatives didn’t know which region Decatur would be in, but they tried to predict it.

“You have to make the decision without knowing exactly how things are determined,” he said.

Under this reclassification, increasing enrollment placed Decatur in 4-AAAA, but the sports directors chose to move up a classification. Schools can only move up in a classification, not down.

This year, the reclassifications played out differently than normal due to the GHSA’s new division.

In the past few years, the only regions were single A up to 6A. Just this year, GHSA added a 7A, which they refer to as “The Super 48.” This includes the largest schools in the state. This new 7A region split the classifications and changed where the numbers fell, which also influenced Decatur’s position.

Before “The Super 48” and before our 4-AAA region, Decatur was in a 2A region. Harbin went to the school during this time. This smaller classification affected his sports teams.

“The main thing is that we’re now playing against bigger schools, but we’re also a much bigger school than when I was in school,” he said. “I think the level of competition is comparable in some ways to bigger schools. Our ability to compete is about the same.”

When he attended Decatur, Harbin advanced far in playoffs in the 2A region.

“My soccer and basketball teams both made it to playoffs,” he said. “In basketball, we lost in the finals two years in a row, in 2002 and 2003. We lost in soccer in finals in 2002, and we won in 2003. We won the championship against The Walker School.”

This year, as a head coach, Harbin appreciates the Decatur’s new classification. He finds it beneficial for Decatur’s sports teams, his soccer team specifically.

“I think the region change will be competitive for boys soccer,” he said. “We’re going to have to continue to get better, and continue to compete, but our goals of making the playoffs and competing for a state championship are going to continue to be the same.”

Sophomore Clara McKay, returning varsity girls lacrosse player, thinks the change won’t necessarily change their chances of making playoffs.

“There are still some competitive public schools for sure, but not getting killed by Pius will be nice,” she said.

Mckay says the lacrosse program at Decatur is “relatively young.” This gives private schools a stronger advantage because their programs are more developed than Decatur’s. To win, she says Decatur needs to get serious.

“I think it depends on not only the schools in our region, but our commitment and effort,” she said.

Like McKay, Harbin also believes the region change can still be a challenge for Decatur and is a “good mix.”
“Our teams will never be in a position where they can’t be successful,” he said. “There’s a good balance where you have to compete, but there’s always a chance to do well.”

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