A little history...
In 1998, USA Ultimate began hosting the Juniors National Invitational Championship. Beginning in 2001 USA Ultimate began restricting the composition of the teams attending this event to encourage teams to focus on building within the structure of high schools – an existing and supportive structure for youth sports.
In 2004 the event was renamed the High School Championships to acknowledge the shift to single-school teams. In 2005 the event was split into two, the HS Eastern Championships and the HS Western Championships. As the high school division has grown, the purpose behind the event has evolved. When it was initiated its primary purpose was to provide an event for the handful of organized youth teams from around the country. As more teams have developed from around the country the event has become an opportunity for the top high school teams from each state to compete against each other. Because the event occurs in May when school is in session and because it is a small event (16 open teams and up to 16 girls teams) the event was split to HS Easterns and Westerns so teams did not have to travel as far and more teams could participate. Since these events are tied to participation in HS State Championships they also create an incentive to make sure that the state championships continue to grow.
While the USA Ultimate HS Eastern and Western Championships, like the HS National Championships before them, has been a great tool for growing and promoting high school level Ultimate, national and even regional level high school competition in the long-term is not ideal. As Ultimate spreads to lower and lower-middle class schools and participants, the economic feasibility of flying to tournaments will become further out of reach for many teams. In addition, since a qualifying process for these events is not feasible within the short spring season, the sheer number of teams applying in the winter has made choosing the top 16 teams difficult. Finally, as the level of play within states rises so will the prestige of the HS State Championships, thereby reducing the need for these national level championship events.
What's to come...
Since 2005, the growth both in size and competitiveness of the HS State Championship events has been phenomenal. In the past four years, the HS Western and HS Eastern events have doubled the number of teams that were able to participate in the old HS National Championships. Seeing this positive growth, and recognizing the demand for more regional level playing opportunities in the years to come, it became apparent it was time to plan for the next regional split. At the winter 2009 Board of Directors meeting, a proposal was approved to transition to HS Westerns, HS Centrals, HS Southerns and HS Northeasterns by the year 2012. In recognizing that the Youth Club Championships continues to provide a national venue for youth competition, it is exciting to also be able to provide more opportunities and increased accessibility to Regional Championship level events for high school programs.
In anticipation and in preparation for the split to four regional Championship events in 2012, the USA Ultimate has created four Regional Youth Director (RYD) positions in 2009. Each RYD is tasked with promotion and development of both youth club and school-based playing opportunities in their region. The RYDs will be able to provide resources and support for the development of HS State Championships in new states, as well as existing programs.
Learn more about the Regional Youth Directors here.
Learn more about the current USA Ultimate High School Championships: