Ethics lawyer Michael Josephson is credited with saying, “Be thankful for quality competitors who push you to the limit. When you compete with someone as good or better than you, you may not always win, but you never lose.”
The Greater Kansas City Suburban Conference exhibits a push for fair and quality competition through realignment every two years based on member schools’ current enrollments. The 2020-2021 school year will see the start of four adjusted divisions within the conference’s 27 schools (the Suburban Gold or Big Eight, Suburban Red or Big Six, Suburban White or Middle Six, and Suburban Blue or Small Seven).
Grain Valley joined the Suburban Conference two years ago after a prolonged stay in the Missouri River Valley Conference.
The Eagles will reside in the Suburban Conference’s White Division or Middle Six next year along with Belton, Fort Osage, Raytown, Truman, and William Chrisman. Belton and Grain Valley were the only two Class 4 football schools this year among those moving into the revised division next year, with the rest being Class 5 football schools.
This means that all of Grain Valley’s conference opponents will reside in Jackson or Cass counties for the next two years. Travel times on buses will be reduced by eliminating trips north of the Missouri River to places like Platte County, Smithville, Kearney, and Winnetonka.
Grain Valley Activities Director Brandon Hart has indicated that travel has not been an issue for the school’s coaches. That they have handled the miles with positive attitudes because of the high level of competition they have faced. Hart is also not naive that players and families will certainly appreciate the shorter drives to watch competition in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.
Hart shared his thoughts on what the move to the Suburban Conference has meant for Grain Valley.
“I think there have been a lot of benefits moving to the Suburban Conference. It forced us to raise our bar playing against larger schools, and we have seen growth in our programs as a result. We have also received more exposure in the Suburban Conference, which has had a positive impact on our culture,” Hart said.
“I think the biggest benefit has been the ability to create more opportunities for kids. We have been able to create new athletic programs like swimming. Furthermore, it has also helped us grow our existing programs because there are more opportunities to find competition at the lower levels. We have been able to add lower level teams and increase competition for our underclassmen.”
Hart concluded, “Athletic programs are built on the development of the younger players, and the move to the Suburban Conference has had a positive impact by providing more opportunities for kids.”
Head coaches have a vested interest in the quality of competition they face. Seeing growth in stretching yourself by facing established programs with talent tends to pull the most out of your team come district playoff time.
Grain Valley Head Boys Basketball Coach Andy Herbert has collectively been a fan of the Eagles move to and within the Suburban Conference.
“The Suburban Conference has been a positive experience for us. It raises your awareness in everything you do. The Missouri River Valley Conference was competitive and fun. Every conference game was a rivalry because of the nature of the schools you faced,” Herbert said.
“There are bigger schools and a greater level of competitive competition in the Suburban Conference. Honestly, I think that prepared us for the Class 5 District playoffs last year. That is a credit to the schedule we played, and that’s only going to improve as the school sizes get bigger.”
Herbert continued, “It’s a natural progression when you face the caliber of schools that we faced this year with conference opponents like Grandview or Raytown South in basketball. The ‘ah’ or ‘wow’ factor disappears because you get used to participating in highly competitive athletic contests every time you step out there. If you are not ready to compete, you can physically get devoured. I think our kids have responded well to what they faced in all sports, really.”
Senior Seth Dankenbring is a three sport student athlete at Grain Valley High School. Dankenbring is a varsity player in football, basketball, and baseball who has competed in both the MRVC and Suburban Conferences. The recent signee to the North Central Missouri Baseball program offered his thoughts on what it means to participate in the Suburban Conference as a Grain Valley Eagle.
“It’s been a different atmosphere and level of competition in the Suburban Conference compared to the MRVC. Bigger teams, bigger schools, and bigger kids in top level sports. For sure, I have enjoyed the move. The MRVC is a great conference, but we grew out of it, and we’ve found a new home. We’re ready to move on to the Middle Six next year,” Dankenbring said.
The Eagles will leave the comforts of the nest in knowing their current conference Blue Division opponents as they stretch their wings next year to grow by soaring into the Suburban Conference White Division or Middle Six.