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Idaho Student Athletes Excluded from Playoffs Simply for Being Foreign

AP Hoop
The Associated Press

Some schools in Idaho are crying rotten potatoes when it comes to athletics. Recent decisions on the postseason eligibility of certain student athletes has left many scratching their heads.

After an 11-3 vote by the Idaho High School Activities Association, international athletes in private Idaho schools will soon be excluded from district and state competitions. The IHSAA claims it’s committed to maintaining a level playing field and international students give private schools an edge. Schools like Genesis Prep Christian Academy are devastated by the decision.

You can understand their beef. Last season Genesis Prep won the state title in basketball with a squad that featured two international players. But it’s the choppiness and inconsistencies in the ruling that particularly and understandably bother Genesis Prep. Foreign students can still play in the regular season. So, they can help a team achieve a winning record only to be excluded once that team competes for a championship. You would think the players would be banned all together or not at all, but when sports and politics collide, these types of questionable decisions are often handed down.

Foreign students are broken up into two categories: F1 and J1. International students attending private schools are F1s. These students may choose which school they’d like to attend, and may play for 1-4 years at a high school. Exchange students attending public school are the J1s. These students may only stay for one year and their schools are selected for them.

At Genesis Prep, F1 students are a big part of the school, making up 20 percent of the student body. These kids will soon be excluded from playoff games despite being allowed to contribute to their teams throughout the regular campaign.

This exclusion of kids doesn’t stop on the courts either. The ruling also prevents F1 students from participating in all extracurricular activities. If a student athlete is allowed at a school, why isn’t that same boy or girl permitted to reap the benefits of a complete school life? Sounds shady.

Administrators are asking the ISHAA to reconsider their ruling but so far–no dice. Those who voted for the ban of foreign students point to ‘fair play’ but perhaps this is all a case of sour grapes. During the 2016-17 school year, its second year of being sanctioned in basketball, Genesis Prep took the state crown in boys basketball, and finished third at state in girls hoops. Maybe those in charge are taking the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, disjoin ’em’ approach. Instead of encouraging other schools to try to out coach and outplay Genesis Prep, the powers that be are simply just throwing kids out when the playoffs begin. That’s not fair play.

The ruling to give international kids the boot is unfair to those kids, their American teammates, the schools, and the spirit of competition. Genesis Prep wants to compete as a family. Anyone who has ever played sports on any level can understand that. Yet this is lost on the board making the call in this instance.

Genesis Prep has taken things a step further, offering to move up and take on schools six times their size. The IHSAA said no.

The school has no intention of splitting up teams according to Chris Finch, principal at Genesis Prep. If the ruling remains, Genesis may find alternative competition. The new rules are set to go into effect starting with the 2018-19 school year.

Along with basketball, Genesis Prep also fields teams in volleyball and golf. According to Finch, children from 17 countries have attended Genesis Prep over the last six years, with many of them participating in athletics. The Jaguars have suited up players from Australia, South Korea, and other countries from Europe and Africa. International students stay with the families of school employees or families who have kids attending the school.

Some coaches in the North Star League have complained that foreign students give the Jags an advantage. Genesis Prep begs to differ. For argument’s sake though, let’s say they do have an edge. Then why not grant their request to change classifications? Genesis Prep suggested the IHSAA allow them to move up from 1A Division II, the smallest of Idaho’s six classifications, to 3A, the third-largest. Genesis Prep, with an enrollment of around 80 students in grades 9-12, would be in a division where the other schools’ enrollment is between 320-640 students. But they would do it to keep their family intact on and off the playing court.

The final analysis: Just like so much nowadays, this is all about politics. All Genesis Prep wants is to allow all their kids to play. Those who voted no did so even though other schools larger than Genesis Prep are allowed to remain in smaller leagues. Schools that play Genesis Prep can have F1 kids at their schools too, but they choose not to bring them in. Genesis Prep, a Christian school, chooses to welcome in these students. They shouldn’t be penalized for it. Now, all the kids suffer because of the slanted opinion of a chosen few. Sounds as silly as a far left activist Circuit Court making decisions on national security for the entire country. Unfortunately in 2017 these types of scenarios are often reality. Perhaps the persistence of Genesis Prep will shed more light on this situation and eventually lead to a change of heart in the great state of Idaho. For now the international fight continues.

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