Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of articles on the affiliate members of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). 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 Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association (SHSAA) found its footing in 1948 thanks to a group looking to achieve the common goal of conducting a track and field championship. Since then, additional activities have been introduced as the SHSAA has taken its current shape in the past 25 years.
The SHSAA office has grown since first introducing an executive director in the late 1960s. In 1990, the association added a second staff member. Today, the staff consists of an executive director, assistant executive director, a front office assistant and a part-time employee.
While many other Canadian provinces boast high participation numbers for basketball and volleyball, as McKellar put it, “Saskatchewan is football crazy.”
“Football in the fall is a big one for the SHSAA. We run 6-player football, 9-player football and 12-player football,” McKellar said. “It’s really one of our biggest, most high-profile sports. The province is fanatical about the sport. We’ve got a little more than 100 teams spread across our three classifications.”
Although not as beloved as in other provinces, basketball and volleyball remain popular for participants. Similar to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, the SHSAA basketball championship pits teams from all classifications in one location.
“We call it ‘HOOPLA,’” McKellar said. “It is a major attraction that is very well attended every March and is a highlight on our calendar.”
Just as notable are the provincial volleyball championships that include the five classifications of boys and girls competing throughout the province. McKellar said the significance in the championships are that some of the smallest communities in Saskatchewan have an opportunity to host a championship. Among the communities are those that have as few as 150 residents.
“No matter whether it’s for basketball, soccer or volleyball, the conferences are usually determined during a weekend tournament, as opposed to a season-long schedule of games,” McKellar said. “We really have two major centers: Regina and Saskatoon. Outside of those two major centers, a majority of competition occurs in our activities’ postseasons.”
Located north of Montana and North Dakota, Saskatchewan is no stranger to colder than normal spring and fall seasons. Consequently, the SHSAA has had to roll with the punches when scheduling events.
Two activities in particular have unusual seasons of competition for the SHSAA. Golf and cross country may start in April and June, respectively, but each of the seasons don’t conclude until the following school year.
“Our high school golf season starts in the middle of April and the championship is held the last weekend in September,” McKellar said. “The expectation and hope is that they get the programs going in the spring, get the student-athletes involved in some spring tournaments, and then over the course of the summer those student- athletes will continue their interest and play on their own in club and similar events.”
Once school returns to session in September, teams quickly get into qualifying for the postseason before the provincial championship takes place. Similarly, the cross country season begins in June. However, McKellar said there aren’t any meets until school resumes, providing teams a chance to get organized and prepare for provincial championships in October.
“Weather can be an issue in the spring and fall in Saskatchewan,” McKellar said. “This year, the final four holes of the first day of our provincial golf championship were played in snow. Yet, we’ve had other years where the temperatures are significantly above average.”
Cody Porter is a graphic arts/communications assistant in the NFHS Publications/ Communications Department.