For years, the Board of Education in the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) has been interested in putting sports back into middle schools. If SMSD were to put sports back into middle schools, they would join the Olathe School District as well as the Blue Valley School District as districts that have junior high sports.
SMSD last had middle school sports in the mid 1980’s. According to Indian Hills Middle School principal Carla Allen, back in the 80’s the philosophy was against competition at a young age. As a result sports were taken out of district middle schools.
Now, over 20 years later, there is a chance to have middle school sports in the district junior high schools. The four sports in the proposed plan would include cross country, boys’ wrestling, girls’ volleyball and basketball. Soccer could potentially be added in the future.
The plan hasn’t been approved by the Board of Education yet, but if confirmed, this would change the sports season to allow high school coaches to coach the teams. The beginning coaches would be current middle and high school teachers.
The school teams would only play other middle schools in the district including Indian Hills, Indian Woods, Hocker Grove, Trailridge and Westridge. All five middle schools in the district would have no-cut tryouts and possibly have multiple teams, depending on the attendance at tryouts.
“Tryouts would just be to place [the players] on a team with students at a similar skill level,” Allen said. “[We would have] as many [teams] as we need to place all students who want to play.”
Playing together at a younger age could increase team chemistry before the athletes get to the high school level.
“If [you] look at the state champions for high schools something like 26 of the 30 state champions [of the four proposed sports] have middle school sports,” varsity soccer coach Jamie Kelly said.
Having no-cut teams in middle school could increase the number of athletes attending high school sports tryouts in the future.
“[For example] if you start running as a seventh or eighth grader I don’t know why you wouldn’t keep running,” Kelly said.
Along with organized and competitive sports, middle schools would also continue to play Intramural games. The Intramural games are large tournaments open to whoever wants to sign up. The winner of the school tournament represents the school in the district finals playing against the other school champions. Intramural games would not include sports in the proposed program. Basketball and volleyball are two Intramural sports that would be cut if the proposal is approved.
Intramurals include a range of sports from ping-pong to flag football. These sports are a less competitive way to stay active.
“[Intramurals] weren’t really organized, they were just do whatever you want sports,” sophomore Matthew Gaughn said. “They are good for the less competitive kids.”
All of the organized middle school sports teams would have regular daily practices at the middle schools, just like high school sports. Due to middle schools’ later start time of 8:45 a.m., the teams could possibly practice either before or after school.
“[The players] will know what high school sports are all about before they get there,” sophomore volleyball coach Randi Williams said.
According to Allen, the goal of the potential program is to get kids involved during middle school which also contributes to school spirit, as well as better prepare the young athletes for the high school level.