As a member of the Georgia High School Athletic Association, Pinecrest Academy is among the smallest classification of schools.
But as a member of the North Atlanta Metro League (NAML) competing in middle school sports, Pinecrest found itself getting too big.
The Paladins have helped find a remedy with the creation of a new league for middle school athletics to start this school year – called the Metro 10 – that will include nine other private schools in the north Metro area in the hopes of creating a stable competitive environment aligned more closely to the GHSA model of athletics.
Pinecrest will be joined by Fellowship Christian, King’s Ridge Christian, Mt. Paran Christian, Mt. Pisgah Christian, Mt. Vernon Presbyterian, North Cobb Christian, St. Francis, The Walker School and Whitefield Academy. Nine of the 10 schools are members of the same region for varsity sports in the GHSA, and all have a history of competition in both middle school and high school athletics in recent years.
The Metro 10 will offer the full gamut of high school sports and follow the GHSA calendar for junior varsity athletics, concluding with playoffs for sports like basketball and football or championship meets and tournaments for cross country, wrestling and the like.
“Ideally what we hope is for something to be stable and to really develop healthy competition amongst these 10 schools,” said Sam Lialios, an assistant football coach at Pinecrest and the Metro 10’s first league president.
Created in 2001, NAML had grown into a league with over 20 private schools whose athletic programs varied drastically in size. Some schools, like Pinecrest, had athletic programs with as many as 23 teams. Other schools had as few as three.
As such, NAML lacked strict guidelines. For instance, smaller schools that didn’t have football teams might start playing basketball in October while bigger schools were still in football season.
Rumblings amongst the NAML’s members whose high school programs compete in GHSA began this past August, Lialios said. It started off as emails back and forth: Would you be interested in switching? Would you be interested in creating something new? Who could head this league?
Pinecrest athletic director inserted Lialios’ name into the discussion, and when 18 or so of the interested schools’ athletic directors and assistant athletic directors met at Fellowship Christian in March to discuss what the Metro 10 could be, Lialios took charge.
“[Kane] gave me a tremendous opportunity to do this,” Lialios said, “and I think he thought that we would do things right. I think we’ve really done that in the baby steps we’ve taken to make sure everybody’s needs are met as best as we can as a group.”
Indeed, at that March meeting, the schools created firm guidelines and regulations, like determining what sports to offer and the start and end dates for each sport. They met again in May to create schedules for fall and winter sports.
There’s still more work to be done. Lialios said the schools will meet again in August to create schedules for spring sports. A website is forthcoming.
But the framework for what Pinecrest and the rest of Metro 10’s schools want is in place.
“If we can get a kid starting off in sixth grade, and he’s playing these kids, and he goes through six years playing all these kids and developing and growing with them, I think that would be a phenomenal atmosphere for these kids,” Lialios said.
“Our goal is to make it friendly and make it easy for these 10 teams … to where it truly fits every school’s individual needs as best we can.”