Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles on the affiliate members of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Affiliate members have the right to participate in meetings and activities but without voting privileges or eligibility for elected or appointed offices or assignments.
The Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association (MHSAA) was created on April 24, 1962, as result of a government-commissioned study of “physical education and recreation in Manitoba.” The commission recommended the “definite need for a secondary school athletic association to define policy, standards and participation regulations for all parts of the province and membership should include teachers, principals and inspectors.”
Faced with limited resources, a group of dedicated individuals worked to groom the MHSAA in the years that followed. In 1975, the association hired Morris Glimcher as its executive director, which proved to be a great decision as Glimcher guided the organization for 41 years until his retirement in June 2016. At that time, the MHSAA hired Chad Falk as Glimcher’s successor.
Comprised of nearly 200 schools and 35,000 students, the Winnipeg- based MHSAA receives funding in forms similar to many of its provincial counterparts, according to Falk.
“About a quarter of our funding comes from the province of Manitoba through an organization called Sport Manitoba, which directs all the provincial sport funds in the province,” Falk said. “Another quarter of our funding comes from sponsorship, and another half comes from registration and administrative fees from our member schools throughout the province.”
Sport Manitoba is what Falk refers to as an “arms-length government agency” in Manitoba. When it’s time for the annual budget, the province directs an unspecified “millions of dollars” for sport development, which is then handed over to Sport Manitoba.
“We have 70 some sport organizations in the province from hockey to karate,” Falk said. “It’s tasked with divvying up that money to see where it best belongs, and we receive a quarter for our annual operating revenue. This model in Manitoba has been in place since the middle of the 1990s.”
Manitoba is separated into 15 zones, which helps comprise a 17-member board of directors that drives the MHSAA mission and vision of promoting high school sports across the province. When a new policy or rule is installed, the MHSAA governance model states that the membership must vote on it.
“Each of our 15 zones get three votes at an annual general meeting and, from there, it’s a simple majority vote whether it passes or not,” Falk said.
Among the MHSAA’s most popular sports are volleyball and basketball. The MHSAA has an estimated 6,000 student-athletes participating annually in basketball and 7,000 competing annually in volleyball. Falk added that from top to bottom, the association’s gender split is “slightly higher for females but is actually quite equal in terms of participation numbers between boys and girls.”
“Manitoba is probably one of the leaders in volleyball development across Canada,” Falk said. “It’s always been a very strong volleyball province, but volleyball and basketball are certainly our biggest sports.”
Surprisingly, Falk said ice hockey isn’t as big at the high school level across Canada as some may think. However, in recent years, it’s becoming more popular within the MHSAA and outgrowing the city-, town- or club-based programs. During the 2016-17 school year, 1,500 student-athletes participated in ice hockey.
To accommodate the smaller schools in the north, which can be a 10- to 12-hour drive from Winnipeg, the MHSAA’s postseason hosts are decided by a provincial hosting rotation.
“The provincial hosting rotation allows every zone to host every sport. Some sports such as track and field don’t move across all 15 zones because we have limited facilities,” Falk said. “For the others, like hockey, basketball, soccer, we have them on a provincial hosting system that gives the north its opportunity to host so that the burden isn’t always placed on the north to bear the brunt of the travel.”
Cody Porter is a graphic arts/communications assistant in the NFHS Publications/ Communications Department.