Social media outlets have perpetuated rumors over the last several weeks that Canterbury School would not be fielding a girls basketball program this season due to a low numbers turnout.
The school’s athletic director, Ken Harkenrider, has confirmed to Outside the Huddle that the program will continue this season.
The girls will play an abridged version of their schedule that was originally to start November 1 opposite Adams Central. While the schedule is not finalized for Harkenrider to release full details, he does say the team will play at least eight varsity games. The school’s website currently lists November 14 as a start date with the Cavaliers’ visit to Adams Central rescheduled for that day.
While the trouble fielding a team has raised questions in the local scene, Harkenrider says that this more or less goes back to the days before Canterbury was a state power in girls basketball.
“Before we had our 10 or 12 year fabulous run, we had kids who weren’t at that competitive level, so we put together a schedule of programs that fit their needs,” Harkenrider said. “It is more similar to what it was like in 1993 than it was in 2010, that is the reality.”
Harkenrider says that he is doing his job in making sure that the program, in its current state, fits the needs of the current crop of young ladies in the school.
When the first day of practice came around this season, only a handful of girls showed interest. Harkenrider says that was for a variety of reasons including difficulty committing to such a rigorous schedule. After putting out some messaging and identifying families who may have interest, they doubled their numbers and at present time they look to put out a team of 11 players with varying experience.
“I told them, if the negative appeal is that the season is too long or too intimidating, I am willing to address that straight on,” Harkenrider said. “But you need to give me your commitment that you are going to hang on.
He identified teams on the schedule that would be a good fit for Canterbury to play. He then called every athletic director from schools on Canterbury’s schedule individually. Harkenrider explained his perspective on the situation, but told the athletic directors that he understood they needed to do what was best for the people in their own buildings.
“Every one of the ADs I spoke to has been very understanding,” he said. “It is refreshing to know the guys in the school buildings are taking care of things the right way. The way the sport industry has evolved over time, that is not always the case.”
As for other sports and activities draining the time of students, not just at Canterbury, he hopes that trends of specializing in one sport or one activity can change.
He pointed to the statistic that says that 95 percent of high school athletes are done with their athletic careers when they graduate from their school. Harkenrider says he agrees that for the overwhelming vast majority of high school age students, the right answer is not to specialize in a single sport.
“The fact is that everyone, all the various sports and activity offerings, we have proceeded for a long period of time thinking ‘if this is good, more of this is better.’ Those circles have begun to intersect more and more and kids feel they have to pick just one,” Harkenrider said.
When the season begins, coach John Beckman will be in his fourth season with the Cavaliers. The program has seen struggles after being moved all the way up to Class 3A from Class 1A due to success factor. They went to four straight state title games from 2012-2015, winning in 2012 and 2013. They also won state titles in 2009, 2009 and 2010.
“I appreciate the fact that we don’t fully pull the plug and we can represent the school in girls basketball,” Harkenrider said. “It doesn’t look like it has looked, but I can appreciate that we are keeping it going for those girls who want to be part of it.”
Canterbury lost its top six players from last season’s varsity roster of nine. Four of those players graduated and two others transferred to different schools.