FAQ on Recognizing Chess as a MSHSL Event
Questions and Answers
Regarding Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Sanction of Chess as an Official Activity
What is the benefit of chess becoming an MSHSL activity? (Or, what is MSHSL anyway, and why do we need another “league”?)
v What is the MSHSL? The Minnesota State High School League is the governing body for most high school sports and activities in Minnesota, and all but a few high schools in the state are members. Think of it as the Minnesota State High School “Association”. It is a state-level administrative body that provides uniform rules and guidelines and that runs a state tournament in most activities. It is NOT a competitive league like the Minnesota High School Chess League or a sports conference, and it would NOT replace our current chess leagues.
v How would chess be benefited by sanction (approval) as a MSHSL activity? In a word, the benefit is “opportunity”. Approval of an activity by a state high school association is often key to growth of that activity throughout a state, and MSHSL approval seems certain to lead to more school boards throughout Minnesota supporting chess in their schools. In addition, while the MSHSL is a high school association, school board support in high schools will almost always be accompanied by support at the middle school/junior high and elementary levels, so sanction will provide greater chess opportunities for children of all ages in Minnesota and help chess grow in all regions of the state. Illinios is a good example. There were only 10-15 chess teams in Illinois, all in the Chicago area, when the Illinois High School Association approved chess as an official activity thirty years ago. Today, though, there are chess programs throughout Illinois, and their 2006 state high school chess tournament was attended by 126 teams of 8 players each (appx. 1000 students).
What would be the financial impact of sanction? (Or, what would this cost my school?)
v MSHSL activity fee—Each member school of the MSHSL pays activity fees that are currently $90 per activity. Chess would be an additional activity, thus there would be a cost to a school of $90 to field a team. There are no other MSHSL fees.
v State tournament—The state tournament would be free, because the MSHSL pays the cost and arranges for sponsorship of any tournament they administer. Any team or student could therefore enter the state tournament at no cost, a SAVINGS of about $35-45 per student from the current entry fees at the state tournament run by the Minnesota State Chess Association (MSCA).
v Pay for coaches—The pay for a coach is up to each district in accordance with their individual policies. A coach could be paid as little as $1. Volunteer coaches are also allowed, we understand.
v Transportation—transportation costs are also a matter for individual districts, but the MSHSL Executive Director believes that state law requires schools to use state-inspected vehicles for transportation of students to any school-sponsored functions. If so, this is NOT a new requirement, but one that already applies whether chess becomes a sanctioned activity or not. Any schools not currently using state-approved vehicles would thus be in violation of state law and under the necessity to get in line. NOTE: state-inspected vehicles approved for school use can include private automobiles owned by parents or coaches, provided that they receive the state inspection and appropriate school policies are followed (EXAMPLE: a family’s van that has had the state inspection and is therefore approved for use).
Eligibility—How would MSHSL sanction affect the eligibility of my students to participate?
v MSHSL scope—The MSHSL administers only high school activities. Elementary and middle school programs are outside the aegis of the MSHSL, therefore elementary and middle school/junior high school programs and state organizations/events would not be subject to MSHSL rules and requirements.
v Age—Pre-7th graders can not participate on high school teams in any MSHSL sport or activity.
v Season and practice restrictions—chess would be considered a fine arts activity of the MSHSL and thus would be in the same category as music, drama, debate, etc. As such, it would not be subject to the practice restrictions that athletics are, and chess clubs could run throughout the school year. The competitive season would (rightly) have some limits, however. The proposal currently being submitted to the MSHSL for inclusion of chess requests a season with limits of 35 total matches/games (excluding the state tournament) and 25 events/meets, which would be as much as is allowed for any current MSHSL activity.
v Cash prizes at non-school events—Our understanding is that large cash prizes can not be accepted by students in non-school chess tournaments without forfeiting their MSHSL eligibility both for the state tournament and for competition in regular-season league matches. Students can still compete in the non-school tournaments and keep MSHSL eligibility, however, if they simply refuse prize money.There is some possibility that this restriction might not apply to chess, because chess is being proposed as a fine arts activity rather than as a sport, and fine arts activities such as music and drama allow the receipt of cash awards without loss of eligibility for participation in high school programs. In addition, even for sports the MSHSL rules state that prizes of under $100 are not a violation. Therefore, it appears that AT A MINIMUM, students will be able to accept cash prizes of less than $100 at non-school tournaments and still be eligible for their high school teams. We have requested confirmation of this from the MSHSL and are awaiting their reply.
v Concurrent participation in more than one MSHSL activity—Students can be in multiple MSHSL activities at the same time (for example, chess at the same time as a play, debate, or an athletic team) if their school district permits it.
How would a MSHSL state tournament run?
v 32 schools will be absolutely required for the MSHSL to run a state tournament competition, and that number would have to be reached by the start of the 2008-09 school year. That gives us eleven months to have 32 committed teams statewide, although we really need at least 40 to leave a little “room for error”. The GOOD NEWS is that a looser tournament structure can be set up initially and then modified in a later year as participation allows. For example, the following formats are possible:
- We could keep the current format as traditionally run by the Minnesota State Chess Association (MSCA) and have students compete as individuals, with the top 4 scores added together for a team total. This would require only 4 students for a team. We could even specify that a team consists of 3 or more players from the same school. Then, any school with 3 players could count as a team.
- We could have a true team competition with teams of 5 players paired against each other, but allow smaller teams to compete provided that they consist of a minimum of 3 players. Thus, a team without the normal 5 players could still compete by forfeiting up to 2 boards, while still retaining a mathematical chance to win matches.