Middle school sports program popular
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 1:32 p.m.
The Alachua County Middle School sports program is in the middle of its eighth year and officials say the popularity of the successful program is still soaring.
Unlike most other sports programs for teens, parents do not have to pay a fee for their children to participate in the Alachua County Middle School sports program, which includes volleyball in the fall, basketball, which began last month and ends in March, and soccer, which begins on March 11.
In the fall, the High Springs girls volleyball team defeated Bishop in the championship match and Bishop defeated Kanapaha in the boys championship match.
Charlie Wise, overseer of the program for the School Board of Alachua County, said now that the program is in its eighth year, it is hard to believe it has not been around longer.
“We are very pleased with our program,” Wise said. “It’s become highly competitive, and we wish we had the resources to field more teams. Interest in the program is tremendous.”
Wise said all middle schools in the county field boys and girls teams in all sports, except Hawthorne Middle/Senior High School, which normally has just a boys basketball team. Wise said Hawthorne plans to add other teams next school year.
Wise said middle schools are also involved in a fee-based baseball program operated by the city of Newberry Recreation Department. Teams have begun to practice and the season will start this month.
Wise said the School Board purchased the Diamond Sports Complex in Newberry in 2006 and entered into an inter-local agreement with the city of Newberry to operate the middle school baseball program, which Wise said also is extremely popular. He said some schools, including Bishop and Lincoln, have two baseball teams.
The middle school sports program began in the 2005-06 school year and Wise said it costs the district about $75,000 annually to operate it. Wise said that includes paying 48 coaches, officials for all three sports, trophies and a district allocation of $1,500 per school ($500 per sport). Wise also said player eligibility includes maintaining a 2.0 GPA and having good behavior.
Wise said Superintendent Dan Boyd and middle school principals are responsible for the success of the program. He said Boyd came to him several years ago and asked him to research the idea of a middle school sports program before coming up with a plan for implementation.
“He has attended every championship game in the history of the program and he has personally handed out all of the certificates and trophies,” Wise said.
Mike Gamble, principal at Bishop, said the program has been “overwhelmingly positive.” He also said Boyd deserves a lot of credit for being a staunch supporter of the program, which, Gamble said, is tailored to be just another extracurricular activity.
“It’s fun and exciting, but we’re not going over the top with it,” he said, adding that the minimum GPA requirement helps some students with their academics and behavior because they know they won’t play if either is not up to par.
Lawson Brown, assistant principal at Lincoln, agreed with Gamble. Brown said the minimum GPA requirement has had a “profound impact on some of our underachieving students.” He said they work harder in the classroom because they want to be on a team.
“This is a great avenue to prepare them to be student-athletes at the high school level and beyond,” Brown said.
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