Editor’s Note: This is the second 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.
In 1965, a collection of administrators and teachers organized the British Columbia Federation of School Athletic Associations (BCFSAA). Since 1980, that entity has been known as BC School Sports (BCSS). The goal of its first meeting was to ensure fair play across all sports while also developing healthy habits that could have a lasting impact on students. Following the 1965 meeting, the BCFSAA adopted a constitution and set forth on its new endeavor that later received operational support from the provincial government in 1970.
“Like with most organizations, BCSS was formed with the understanding that there was a need for some centralization and unification of the governance of inter-school sports activities,” said Jordan Abney, BCSS executive director. “We only do school sports, unlike in the states where some are activity associations. We are strictly secondary school sports.”
The BCSS membership is comprised of public and independent schools located across the vast British Columbia landscape that have the authority to approve the operating and competitive policies of school sports. The membership serves as BCSS’s governing body and is made up of coaches and athletic directors of member schools, which also form its various 19 commissions for its 18 sanctioned sports.
Among its other duties, the BCSS membership makes decisions regarding fees, association advocacy programs, position statements and membership programs services. The BCSS governing body is tasked with handling areas like eligibility and seasons of play.
“Our governance structure is quite unique here,” Abney said. “The commissions are committees charged with running the zone and provincial championships with a host school or on their own. In a way, we are one step removed from our championship, but our commissions do a great job of putting on some great, first-class events.”
Sports such as skiing and snowboarding, which may not be as prevalent in the United States, are accompanied by curling, mountain biking and rugby as being among the more popular in British Columbia. Abney said that the most popular sports for BCSS are basketball and volleyball. Boys basketball is as highly regarded as football is in the United States, drawing more than 5,000 combined spectators for its championships in four tiers of competition. Additionally, track and field championships boast more than 1,000 participants for the BCSS.
BCSS had slightly more than 90,000 student-athletes participating in its programs last school year, Abney said. Of those, nearly 20,000 participated in multiple sports, which is a distinction Abney is proud to note for his organization.
“That’s a huge number participating in more than one sport for their school,” Abney said. “I think that shows the impact and the depth that some of our schools are having in terms of providing a positive experience.”
Abney, who has been in his role as executive director for nearly two years, has undertaken two long-awaited tasks recently by helping BCSS develop its first strategic plan in more than a decade, as well as rezoning a province that’s had the same structure since its inception.
There’s also hope by Abney that progress can be made in gaining additional funding for BCSS in the next year or two. BCSS is largely funded from school membership fees; however, Abney noted that it is “a little bit rare in that we do receive government funding” from the Province of British Columbia Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.
“We have an annual application where we receive money from them, but we’re actually the only provincial organization in Canada that doesn’t receive core operating funding from the provincial government.”
Cody Porter is a graphic arts/communications assistant in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department.