High School League lowers the boom on dance coaches

The extent to which the adults were shamefully using kids to make their point in a beef at last February’s Minnesota state high school dance tournament seems underscored by a decision by the Minnesota State High School League yesterday to award medals anyway to the girls who refused them. They had previously been disqualified because of their display.

That was a classy move by the athletic director of Faribault, who asked the MSHSL to give the girls their medals, while denying the schools accompanying trophies.

At the same time, coaches Kris Rydland of Chaska, Jenny Raiche of Eastview, Genevieve Adler of Lakeville South,Leslie Swiggum of Wayzata and Cara Chase of Eden Prairie were suspended for one year. Chase had already resigned in the wake of the protest, which the coaches held their teams out of the Class 3A high-kick award ceremony.

They had objected to a MSHSL ruling prior to the tournament that the performance by the winning Faribault team did not violate existing MSHSL rules.

The message from the MSHSL is aimed entirely at adults: Stop ruining youth sports and using kids to do it.

“I think the committee members just decided we needed to make a stand on this,” MSHSL board president Scott McCready told the Pioneer Press. “That is something that was unprecedented. We haven’t seen a display like that, ever.”

On the night of their display, second-place Wayzata and Eastview, which finished third, did not receive their medals. The MSHSL decided to give them to the girls despite the adult-organized protest.

The dance team community is not pleased.

“I don’t think the league had all the information. The punishment did not fit the crime,” Allison Bridges, vice president of the Minnesota Association of Dance Teams, told the Star Tribune.

But Erin Kruesi, who writes the Minnesota High School Dance Team Online blog (she also wrote a fine recap of yesterday’s meeting), said with pending rule changes, all is not lost if the sport moves on.

Going ahead, we look forward to movement on our rules change proposals, and starting fresh with a new dance team season. Schools involved in the sanction will have to work out their own details – but I for one am looking forward to rebuilding relationships within dance community, welcoming our new rookies statewide, and making something wonderful for our student athletes in the years to come. I think I’ve seen enough hurt from our dancers involved in this to last me a lifetime. And I don’t think all the tears will be dry just yet, but no one has to feel them alone. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we as a dance community could come together and see things from all sides – and work to help all of our girls heal the wounds. Our dancers in MN are the best in more ways than one – I saw it today, and I’ll see it tomorrow. Its time for a new chapter – a stronger, better, wiser one. Thank you for letting me be a part of that. Next update – rules changes!

The teams had complained that the Faribault team had copied a Colorado dance team’s performance. But if it did, it violated the spirit, not the letter of the MSHSL law. The League seems ready to tighten its regulations to prevent a similar allegation in the future.

At yesterday’s meeting, supporters of the coaches, who have refused to comment since the incident took place, said they were denied “due process” and were never contacted by the MSHSL.

Coincidentally, the League is holding a Why We Play conference later this month to shift the sports culture “from a win-at-all-cost mentality to a human development mindset will positively impact the culture of sports within the school community and ultimately impact the intentional growth of students.”

The suspended coaches will be required to attend.