Mailbag: Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green recaps first year, and answers your questions

State wrestling Rhonda Blanford-Green

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

In this special installment of the CHSAANow.com Mailbag, we brought commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green in for a Q&A session.

This time, we tackled questions about her first year, eSports, charter schools, “district” teams, school spirit, a shot clock in basketball, championship games on TV, and much more.

To ask a question for the next Mailbag, use this form, or ask on Twitter:

If you think back to a year ago, what were you feeling at this time? How have things changed for you personally in a year?

Pomona football team champions

(Steve Oathout)

A year ago, it was all about ideas and concepts. And a year later, it’s about calls to action and really delving into the responsibilities of the job. I think when you start off you have a mentality of, “Oh I want to do this, and this, and this,” but then when you get into the chair and into the daily routine, it makes it real. It goes from ideas and thoughts to action and realness.

You can start your morning with a to-do list but then you get in the office and there’s 40 urgent emails or phone calls you have deal with. As the new commissioner, everyone wants an audience with you. People want you to prioritize their to-do list. So I’m learning balance.

What are you most proud of in Year 1?

The relationships that I’ve built with the staff. They are the core of the Association and helping me to execute the mission of CHSAA.

What are some of the major things you hope to accomplish in the years to come?

I think a main focus will be the broader education of what CHSAA’s purpose is as an extension of the educational process. We will always be a voice of reason in regards to the purpose of participation, and advocates for kids.

Do you think we say “no” to kids too much?

I believe our roles have changed over the years to being less regulatory, and more service-oriented for kids, coaches, officials and our school communities.

We are balancing the mission of participation without compromising competitive equity. It’s a change in philosophy to embrace more participation — without eroding the culture of fair play.

eSports is emerging nationally as a potential competitive activity. I know you attended a session during the national meeting about it this summer, and have also seized on other opportunities to learn more about it. Where are we headed with eSports?

The interest has been overwhelming. We receive emails and calls urging us to explore the genre. 19 states will participate in this competitive activity in the 2018-19 season. We will take an opportunity to view their competitions and then chart our next steps as we move forward.

More than 22,000 students in Colorado are registered gamers, which means we are missing an opportunity to connect the high school experience and educational accountability to those students. And that would be our future goal — connecting the two.

Additionally, our job will be to dispel the stereotypes and educate the naysayers on our mission, as well as the incorporation of an activity that is on the rise with our students.

What is something you can teach high schoolers about leadership, and what’s something you’ve learned from high schools about leadership?

— @oh_reagan_o, Twitter

I would tell high schoolers to lead with authenticity and empathy and serve for something bigger than yourself. The other thing I would tell all of our participants is to enjoy the high school experience, and don’t put pressure on themselves or allow others to pressure you to be anything more than what you bring to the table. Be your best self.

As far as what I’ve learned? To be open to their interests, even if it may be counter to the historical thought process of a 100-year old state association.

Is there going to be consideration to change the way charter schools are granted CHSAA membership, and bring them more in line with the way traditional high schools are granted automatic membership through their school district? [Ed. note: According to bylaw 600, in order to become a CHSAA member, charter schools and private schools undergo a more stringent review process than traditional public high schools directly under the control and direction of an elected Board of Education for that district in which it resides.]

— Mike, Facebook

For any non-traditional school that hasn’t built a foundation, we vet them to ensure that both sides think through the responsibilities and accountabilities of being a CHSAA member, because unfortunately we have had some non-traditional members not survive in the educational field, and that negatively impacted our members.

Because of that, we feel the current process ensures a cycle of success.

Is there a chance to play the HS 3A,4A and 5A Baseball championships at Coors Field? The @Rockies seem like a great partner to do something like this.

— @LJmaximo, Twitter

Grandview ThunderRidge baseball Coors Field

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Our goal is to provide the best possible facilities for all of our championship events. We will continue to investigate ways to bring a culminating championship to Coors Field. That is a goal. We would love to give our athletes that experience.

This is a combination of questions that we got for you on Twitter, one that you actually responded to already, but it’s also a common one we see in sports like hockey and lacrosse:

So-called “district” teams often have a lot of success, and that leads to some questioning why individual schools don’t have their own teams. What are some of the hurdles there, and are there ways for us to encourage new programs?

The decision to add or delete programs is done at the local level. We trust that our schools look at interests, finances, etc., within their local construct to determine if they want to add or delete programs. And we support their decisions.

CHSAA is a 359-school membership. Our office is guided by their needs, interests and wants.

What are you doing to directly influence and improve school spirit at sporting events across the state? Most schools that do have a lot of school spirit and energy have a lot of financial backing. How will CHSAA use their influence over scheduling, postseason, rules for spectators, and school administrations to push for increased school spirit?

— Peter, Denver

We are excited to present this summer with Varsity Brands on a new platform about raising school spirit and embracing culture within the school, using athletics and activities.

Pomona Eaglecrest 5A State

(Renee Bourcier/bourcierphoto.com)

We have other initiatives, such as #BackMyTeam, which is a social media campaign specifically designed around increasing school spirit. That will be coming back again this fall.

In addition, we have CHSAA leadership and sportsmanship summits, which give kids tools to go back and make a difference in their schools, because school spirit is the core of inclusion.

Are we going to have a shot clock for high school basketball? And when are we going to 30 games in a basketball year?

— Toni, Denver

The shot clock is a national debate that’s being piloted by some states, and I would say the Colorado membership is 50/50 on the idea. We will continue to monitor the pilot programs.

An increase in basketball games has not been submitted by a CHSAA league, and if that were to happen the membership would vote on whether or not to increase games. It hasn’t come up for a discussion or a vote.

More and more research shows an overwhelming connection between CTE and youth football and concussions. While there have been improvements in helmets and techniques, children are concussed at an alarming rate.

What specifically is being done to address this and what responsibility does CHSAA own for the long-term effects of concussions, knowing now the direct correlation between youth concussions and CTE?

— Chris, Sterling

Our responsibility as an Association is to all participants in the area of safety and risk minimization. Our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee has become more involved in the creation of safety bylaws and mandates to ensure that student-athletes are participating in the safest environments possible as recommended by national safety councils.

In the area of concussion, we have strengthened our return-to-play protocols, we have partnered with a company that will provide a local school tracking system for students diagnosed with concussions, and we continuously update our website with the latest information, which is accessible to the public, parents and students.

As a longtime Denver resident, I remember all the years when KWGN-2 and later KCNC-4 would televise the state basketball championship games live. Now, the games are only shown on [the NFHS Network], which requires a high-speed Internet connection and shuts out some viewers. What can CHSAA do to help bridge that gap?

— Richard, Denver

We recently acquired an opportunity to partner with a local broadcast group, and may be able to bridge that gap in the future. But as always, we encourage you to come to the games.

I know the CHSAA is limited on anything to be done about the trend of specialization, but would like to have your thoughts?

— Jim, Castle Rock

I think that specialization is more a large-school issue, as small schools tend to utilize all of their students to participate in their programs, and they’re needed to help those teams.

I think the high school experience is enriched when students participate in multiple activities, not just athletics. Things like music, student leadership, chess club, robotics, knowledge bowl, ultimate frisbee and eSports. The hope is for them to contribute to the bigger picture of their high school, the bigger picture of their school culture.

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4A girls state swimming

(Ray Chen/ArrayPhoto.com)