Martens discusses first two months as Executive Director of MSHSL

New Ulm native and 1984 graduate of New Ulm High School Erich Martens said that his first two months as Executive Director of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) has been exciting.

“We have been at some of the best venues possible and we have seen some very good games and competition,” he said. “That is what we are looking for. We want our student-athletes to, No. 1, have a great experience as well as the community members and officials. This past month has been taken up with area meetings where myself and a couple of our directors have traveled around the state where we have been meeting with school representatives and talking about issues and items that are pertinent to where we are at.

“We have had lots of conversation on classification and tournament formats with school representatives,” he added. “I think that the classification and tournament format item is really big. It has been a board goal for them to work on and wrestle that through as far as how do we classify — is there a standard number that we can use as counting enrollment and that continues to be something up for study. Should it be just the raw number of students in your school? Should it be the number of students in a particular gender or socio-economic factors figured in. Are there other pieces that would be pertinent to classifying? We always talk about a 2-to-1 ratio in football in trying not to have schools that are more than twice your size in the same class as you.”

Martens said that numbers play a big role also.

“The number of available students makes a huge difference a sport (football) that requires significant numbers. Classification and how we structure our tournaments are critical. Should we have first round out-state and try and have later rounds on the big stage? How many classes is the right number for each one of the activities that we have and how do we coordinate that?”

Martens, a 1988 graduate of St. John’s University and who was the principal at Sauk Centre and Sauk Rapids-Rice High Schools, also answered several other questions posed to him.

THE NEW CO-OP ENROLLMENT ADJUSTED NUMBERS WITH ONLY COUNTING 50 PERCENT OF THE PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS ENROLLMENT: “When we count enrollment for schools and we put co-ops in place, remember that co-ops were designed to provide access for students who may not otherwise have that activity,” Martens said. “A small school may not have enough students to have a football program but if two or three schools come together, then they can maybe do that. So with that, we have to classify those co-ops and what we do is work based on what was done by a task force. They decided to count the largest school as the host school as 100 percent for enrollment and then 50 percent for each of the other schools involved.”

Regarding volleyball, Martens said that there has been a request to go to four classes.

“Right now there is a moratorium on any changes. Some adjustments could be seen by December because that is when the goal is to have the new language, if any, done.”

For football, Martens said that district football is still in place.

“This is the second year of a two-year process,” Martens said. “New classifications will come out this coming winter and that is when any adjustments and alignments would take place. Our biggest challenge exists with the lower level in the nine-man and Class A because a number change of 10 students or so can mean a difference in classification. Or it can mean if a few kids do not go out, a nine-man program may not be able to have a program.”

NEW SPORTS GROWING: Martens said that lacrosse is growing as a sport and continues to expand.

“It started in the Metro area and most of the teams are in the Metro area,” he said. “But it is moving out-state. Brainerd has added it. Travel becomes a consideration. Schools are taking a look at it and it is growing across the state in number of schools and participants. It is “measured” growth at this time.”

Boys’ high school volleyball has seen some interest in it, Martens said.

“But with the moratorium on additional classes and tournaments, there is also a moratorium on adding activities right now. We also had a request for high school bass fishing presented to the board on two different occasions and they would be excited to have the (MSHSL) be a presenting partner at their state tournament just as we do with Robotics and state clay target shooting.”

Martens said that a shot clock in high school basketball is also being looked at.

“It is on the winter advisory committee recommendations to look at and also the arc under the basket. There is a lot of communication and conversation around the shot clock. Right now it is a point of study. It has been implemented in other states successfully. We do know that adding a shot clock would be some added detail and expenses. South Dakota started it last year and they felt it went well.”