Dedham High School to Move to Tri-Valley Conference

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David Moser

  The Bay State Conference—the league that every sports team in Walpole High plays in. It holds twelve towns, but on Thursday, May 26, Dedham High School Athletics decided to change conferences. Dropping out of the Herget Division and the Bay State Conference, Dedham High will now move to play in the Tri-Valley Conference. This move, however, will not happen until the fall of 2017 due to scheduling for the 2016-2017 seasons already being set.

  Most towns that play sports in the Bay State Conference have a larger population in their high schools. For example, Walpole High has 1181 students enrolled, while Dedham High School has only 774. One of the determining factors that decides what conference or league a town plays in is school population. This factor is needed to ensure that each school has enough students to compete at the same level as other towns. Dedham’s enrollment is significantly less than Walpole, who already has a low population compared to other BSL schools like Natick (1301), Needham (1522), Newton North (1871), Wellesley (1353) and Weymouth (1988).

  “We want the chance to compete evenly on a nightly basis,” said Dedham Athletic Director Stephen Traister. “I am not saying we will win every night, but we will be able to better compete each night.”

  Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Dedham High School was much larger. The graduating class of 1984 had 291 seniors alone. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Other towns in the Bay State Conference have more than enough students trying out for teams, so the level of competition on each team is higher. Dedham does not have that same luxury.

  “It’s a numbers game,” said Traister. Bigger schools have higher competition because more kids are trying out for the same team. Some schools have almost triple the amount as Dedham does which allows some students to specialize only in one sport; however, Dedham needs students to play up to three sports to be able to fill out their rosters.

Dedham is also one of the few towns in the Bay State Conference that does not have all sub-varsity (Junior varsity and freshman) teams for each sport. For example, there is no freshman boys soccer team at Dedham High school, so freshman are forced to play against older, more skilled and experienced, upperclassman.

In the Bay State Conference, this situation seems unusual; however, in the Tri-Valley Conference, schools have a similar dilemma.

“We draw from the same number of students as schools in the Tri-Valley Conference,” said Traister. The Tri-Valley Conference will be a better fit for Dedham High School’s athletic program as they were one of the smaller teams of the Bay State Conference. “We will fit right in the middle. There will be five towns smaller than us, and five that are larger,” said Traister.

The process actually started eight years ago when Dedham High School applied to and was accepted to the Tri-Valley Conference. The move was all set to be done until the Town of Dedham decided to stay in the Bay State Conference. That was until this winter, after enrollment continued to decline, when the discussion of a possible change was started up again.

  “We knew they were applying [to the Tri-Valley Conference], so this [decision] is not a shock to us,” said Walpole Athletic Director Ron Dowd. “Dedham has been a member of the Bay State Conference for a long time so it is unfortunate.”

As for what town will move into the Bay State Conference, it is undecided. “We are in the process of discussing how and where to go from here,” said Dowd.