A Departure from Tradition: Casady to Leave the SPC

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Last month, Casady School officially declared its decision to leave the Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC) and apply for membership in the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA). Casady will remain in the SPC through the 2022-23 academic year and plans to enter the OSSAA in 2023, with the exception of the football team which will follow an independent schedule in 2022 and 2023, and then plans to enter the OSSAA in fall of 2024.   

After almost seventy years of SPC membership, Casady’s departure from the SPC did not come about without careful consideration — the decision-making process began over three years ago when parents, students, and faculty began to voice increasing concern for our SPC membership. 

Although Casady deeply values its connection with the 16 other SPC schools, it feels that it has grown in a much different direction than its Texas counterparts, and the SPC is no longer the best fit for Casady students. For example, because Casady’s enrollment has remained relatively fixed at around 300 Upper Division students, it is not uncommon for athletes to participate in two or even three teams. Conversely, as Texas schools continue to grow in size, their students have the ability to specialize deeply in fewer sports. As a result, the level of play at which Texas schools compete has grown disproportionately higher than Casady School. Kate Johnson (‘22), a member of Casady’s field hockey team, agrees: “Playing against huge schools like St. Johns in Houston can definitely feel humbling. They’re just at a different level of play.” 

Graphic courtesy of Casady administration.

If approved to join the OSSAA’s 3A division, Casady will compete against schools of similar size, and competition will be much more equitable. productive. 

Another driving concern behind the decision was student well-being. Because Casady is the only Oklahoma school in the SPC, students experience much undue stress when they sacrifice school time to travel to Dallas sports competitions — much more time, in fact, than competitors in Texas. “Even though the bus rides are long, it’s still not easy to get any work done,” agreed members of the men’s soccer team. 

Cyclones make a four-hour trek to Fort Worth for a counter against Trinity Valley School, for example, while Fort Worth Country Day needs to make a mere five-minute drive for their counters against TVS. At the same time, some Casady students express that they actually enjoy Dallas trips, as bus rides and hotel stays create special opportunities for team bonding. Nonetheless, Casady has ultimately decided that the costs of weekly DFW voyages simply outweigh the benefits. In fact, Coach Steve McCarthy noted that the average cost of travel per athlete ranged in the hundreds of dollars. Field hockey drives a particularly steep cost for weekend trips, “$500 for hotel and bus fees.”

Graphic courtesy of Casady administration.

If granted OSSAA membership, Casady athletes can expect their travel time to be sliced to a third of its current quantity, as competition will be largely local, freeing up more time for in-person learning, time spent with family and friends, and sleep. Additionally, because SPC competition takes place in Texas, many students are unable to spectate; the shift to OSSAA competition will hopefully increase fan turnout at games. 

In addition to concern for student-athletes, the decision to leave the SPC was also made in the best interest of Casady’s faculty. In years past, teachers have felt frustrated when half to two-thirds of their whole class is absent during a Friday of sports competition in DFW. One faculty member of the science department has expressed that when a significant portion of their class is absent, it’s “always a challenge” to decide how to proceed: How will they help the missing athletes catch up on work? Should they teach a new lesson despite so many absences? If Casady joins the OSSAA, students will no longer miss class en masse, teachers will not have to grapple with such stressful questions. 

Despite the benefits of OSSAA membership, the change does raise some concerns. For example, what will become of girls’ field hockey and boys’ volleyball? These two particular teams have historically been Casady’s strongest, yet they will not have the opportunity to compete in the OSSAA. They may be permitted to compete against SPC teams or perhaps even start a new league, but the futures of these two particular teams remain largely undecided. 

Although Casady’s decision to leave the SPC still poses many uncertainties, the school feels that this decision will best serve our Cyclones in the coming years. Casady feels confident that its potential OSSAA membership will mark the beginning of a new era for the School filled with greater athletic success, reduced academic stress, and overall richer school experiences.