CONCEPT OF INTER-SCHOLASTIC SPORTS
Interscholastic competition is offered for all students in grades 6-8. These programs are an extension of the Physical Education curriculum offered in grades K-8. The goal of our interscholastic athletics program is to encourage participation while providing appropriate social, conceptual and skill development for each student.
Interscholastic sports include basketball, cross-country running, flag football, track and field, girls’ volleyball, and ultimate frisbee. Teams are designed to teach students individual and team skills and concepts while at the same time emphasizing the importance of respect, good sportsmanship and healthy competition. Coaches are sensitive to providing equal opportunities/playing time to all players. School teams are usually grade-level teams, although groupings may vary depending on the number of students interested in participating. The goal is to field teams that are as competitive as possible within the context of our philosophy.
Students are encouraged to give their best efforts in both practices and interscholastic games, and are reminded that they are representing their school both on and off the court.
Ultimately, our interscholastic athletics programs are committed to helping students develop effective skills and team concepts while enjoying the physical and mental challenges of team sports. Overall, winning is a goal for each team, but not in place of good sportsmanship and respect for teammates and opponents.
MEANING OF INTER-SCHOLASTIC SPORTS
An interscholastic sport is defined as athletic competition between multiple academic institutions (or schools). It could also be seen as a team sport played between schools, or representative of different schools, especially secondary schools:
NATURE OF INTER-SCHOLASTIC SPORTS PROGRAMME
The nature of the inter scholastic sports programme follows a definitive procedures which can be spelt out below using a school in Washington, United states. An athletic code is a must for every individual and participating teams.
Any student wishing to participate will be subject to the following expectations and procedures which are being presented in the format that each student and their parent will be required to sign:
RITZVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
The interscholastic athletic program offered by the various high schools in Washington State, and governed by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, is completely voluntary on the part of the student-athlete. Participation is not required for graduation, nor are athletic credits necessary for college admission. Involvement in an interscholastic athletic program is a privilege, not a right. However, it is also a responsibility, as it requires extra effort and time beyond the regular school day on a voluntary basis.
Those who participate in interscholastic athletics are not only members of a team, but also are representatives of their student bodies, families, and communities. Therefore, it is necessary and desirable that high standards be maintained. These include academic requirements, citizenship, sportsmanship, loyalty, and student-athlete conduct both in and outside the athletic arena. Lowering standards by either an individual or the team in order to win games defeats the purpose and the value of an interscholastic athletic program.
Because the dignity of the total school program is reflected in the athletic program, it is important that student-athletes conduct themselves in a manner above question. Their behaviors and actions both in and outside of the athletic arena should reflect pride in themselves, their school, their families, and their community.
SECTION I: ELIGIBILITY
A. STATE REQUIREMENTS
To be eligible for participation in interscholastic athletics, a student must meet the following requirements of Washington Interscholastic Activities Association:
1. Must be under 20 years of age on September 1 for fall sports, December 1 for winter sports and March 1 for spring sports.
2. May not participate in the same sport for more than four seasons.
3. Must have passed five full-time subjects from the preceding semester to be eligible during the succeeding semester.
4. Must maintain amateur standing.
5. Parent(s)/legal guardian(s) must be bonafide residents of the district.
6. Must be in regular attendance at school.
7. Must pass a physical examination and have it on file in the high school office.
B. RITZVILLE HIGH SCHOOL REQUIREMENTS
In addition to the requirements of the W.I.A.A., student athletes at Ritzville High School must also meet the following requirements:
1. Must have a parent permission form and sports warning and safety forms on file with the office.
2. Must purchase school insurance or have a signed parent waiver on file with the office.
3. Must have signed this Athletic Code.
4. Must purchase an ASB Card.
5. Must pay sports fee.
6. Must have passed five subjects during the semester immediately proceeding the semester in which the activity occurs, and must be passing in all subjects during the present semester. Students will be ineligible for participation during any period when this academic requirement is not fulfilled. Ineligible means a student athlete can practice but not participate in athletic competition. Teachers will communicate to the student athlete and the principal as to the nature of the academic ineligibility and when he/she regains their eligibility. A student not passing five subjects during a given semester will be ineligible for interscholastic competition during the first 5-weeks of the succeeding semester. This ineligibility will carry over the summer months.
SECTION II: ATHLETIC EQUIPMENT AND UNIFORMS
Ritzville High School will provide each student athlete with the necessary equipment and uniforms (exclusive of socks, shoes, and other special equipment) for participation in a particular sport. The student athlete is responsible for the care, including laundering and maintenance, of his/her uniform and equipment during the sports season, and is responsible for returning it to the school in the best possible condition at the conclusion of the sports season. Any equipment or uniform lost or damaged will be paid for by the student athlete.
SECTION III: ATHLETIC TRAVEL
All team members will travel together to and from athletic contests in a school district vehicle. Exceptions may be made in extenuating circumstances. These must be approved by the in-season coach and principal. Student athletes traveling to and from an athletic contest must follow all rules of school bus ridership, as well as any additional rules imposed by the in-season head coach.
SECTION IV: RULES AND REGULATIONS
The following rules and regulations of the Ritzville High School Athletic Department shall apply only to a student athlete for given sports seasons. Disciplinary procedures are outlined in
A. USE OF TOBACCO
The use of tobacco, in any form, by a student athlete is prohibited at all times during the season of a given sport.
B. ALCOHOL AND CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES
The sale, use, possession or being under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances (RCW 69.50) including anabolic steroids, or substances purported to be controlled substances or alcohol on school grounds, at school sponsored activities or at any time while a member of an interscholastic athletic team is prohibited. This includes being in attendance at an activity where alcohol, controlled substances, or substances purported to be controlled substances, are being consumed illegally.
C. COMMITTING ACT OF LARCENY
No student athlete shall take or appropriate the property of another with intent to keep or make use of wrongfully. No student athlete shall sell or purchase stolen property.
D. PERSONAL APPEARANCE
Each student athlete’s appearance shall be neat, clean, and well-groomed as determined by the in-season head coach. In addition, the in-season head coach may announce a policy of dress for student athletes on game day.
Student athletes shall be in attendance at school for at least one-half of the school day in order to be eligible for practice on that day, unless their absence has approval.
Student athletes shall be in attendance at school for the entire school day on the day of an athletic contest unless their absence has had prior approval, or in the case of an extenuating circumstances.
Student athletes shall be responsible for informing the in-season head coach of inability to make a practice prior to missing the practice.
All student-athletes must abide by the following minimum curfews:
10 o’clock PM on weeknights
10 o’clock PM on nights prior to an athletic contest
12 o’clock AM (midnight) on weekends
Any exceptions must have the prior approval of the in-season head coach.
Student-athletes representing teams of Ritzville High School shall exemplify the highest standards of good sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is defined as those qualities of courteousness, fairness, and respectfulness to officials, teammates, opponents, coaches, spectators, and all others associated with the sport or an athletic contest. Therefore, Ritzville High School student athletes shall act in a sportsmanlike manner on and off the field or court.
H. INDIVIDUAL SPORTS POLICIES
The head coach of each sport may add additional rules to the foregoing. These will not, however, eliminate the foregoing uniform rules and regulations.
SECTION V: ENFORCEMENT, DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS, PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS
A. ENFORCEMENT OF RULES AND REGULATION
1. The investigation of incidents, disciplinary actions and procedural due process shall be the primary responsibility of the principal and athletic director.
2. The athletic eligibility board, consisting of the Athletic Director and all a committee of head coaches, shall be responsible for reinstatement of an athlete following his/her suspension.
B. DEFINITION OF GENERAL DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS
A student-athlete who does not abide by the rules and regulations shall be placed on probation, suspended for a portion of the season, or declared permanently ineligible.
A period of trial behavior in which an athlete’s behavior shall be observed to determine if that athlete is attempting to correct the unacceptable behavior for which he or she shall have been notified. Probation shall be for first offenders only in which no violation of the substance abuse section has occurred. Violation of probation shall be cause for suspension or permanent ineligibility.
Shall consist of an athlete being withheld from athletic contests and/or practice:
a. For a first time violation, a meeting involving the athlete, his/her parent, the coach and the athletic director will be held to determine if the athlete will have the option to practice and be allowed to travel with the team to and from athletic contests during his/her suspension. The athlete, however, will not be allowed to miss any school time in order to travel with the team.
b. For a second-time violation, the athlete shall not be allowed to practice or travel with the team during the suspension.
3. PERMANENT INELIGIBILITY
After multiple violations of the athletic code, an athlete may be declared permanently ineligible from participating in interscholastic athletics for the remainder of his/her high school career.
4. REINSTATEMENT OF ELIGIBILITY
Following violations, the student athlete and his/her parent or guardian shall meet with the athletic eligibility board to request approval for reinstatement of eligibility to participate in the next interscholastic sports season. The athletic eligibility board will recommend to the principal appropriate action to be taken. The school principal shall have the final authority as to the student athlete’s participation in the interscholastic sports program.
C. DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS FOR ACTS OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE
1. The sale, use, possession or being under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances (RCW 69.50) including anabolic steroids, or substances purported to be controlled substances or alcohol on school grounds, at school sponsored activities or at any time while a member of an interscholastic athletic team.
2. Being in attendance at an activity where alcohol, controlled substances, or substances purported to be controlled substances, are being consumed illegally.
1. First Violation. Suspension – Immediate ineligibility as a member of an athletic program for the remainder of the season. The suspension shall continue until the next sports season in which the participant wishes to participate. As per Section V B 2a above, a student-athlete may be given the option of practicing. Reinstatement of eligibility as per Section V B 4.
2. Second Violation. Suspension – Immediate ineligibility from participation in interscholastic athletics for one (1) calendar year from the date of the second violation. Reinstatement of eligibility as per Section V B 4.
3. Third Violation. Permanent ineligibility – Immediate and permanent ineligibility from participation in interscholastic athletics for the remainder of athlete’s high school career.
Smoking, chewing, possession of tobacco on school grounds, at school-sponsored activties, or at any time while a member of an interscholastic athletic team.
First Violation. Suspension – Fifteen (15) day suspension from athletic competition. The 15 day suspension shall begin on the day of the next athletic competition. Student may practice but not play as per Section V B 2a. Reinstatement of eligibility as per Section V B 4.
Second Violation. Suspension – Immediate ineligibility as a member of the current interscholastic sports program for the remainder of the season. Ineligibility shall continue until the next sports season in which the participant wishes to participate. The athlete will not be allowed to practice or travel to athletic contests with the team as per Section V B 2b. Reinstatement of eligibility as per Section V B 4.
Third Violation. Suspension – Immediate ineligibility from participation in interscholastic athletics for one (1) calendar year from the date of the third violation. Reinstatement of eligibility as per Section V B 4.
Fourth Violation. Permanent ineligibility Immediate and permanent ineligibility from participation in interscholastic athletics for the remainder of athlete’s high school career.
Note: If a student-athlete violates the athletic code while serving a suspension, eligibility for an upcoming sport will be determined by the athletic eligibility board. The athletic eligibility board will recommend to the principal appropriate action to be taken. The school principal shall have the final authority as to the student athlete’s participation in the interscholastic sports program.
Students are not to be in attendance at an activity where alcohol, controlled substances, or substances purported to be controlled substances, are being consumed illegally. If a student is in attendance at a function in which he/she discovers the presence of alcohol or drugs, he/she must leave that function immediately and then must self-report within twenty-four (24) hours to an appropriate school authority (coach, advisor, athletic director, principal). If the student involved does not self-report within twenty-four (24) hours, he/she will be considered in violation of the athletic code.
E. PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS
All student-athletes charged with a violation of the Ritzville High School Athletic Code and his/her parents shall be notified of the accusation by the principal and/or athletic director. The principal will review all cases and has final authority on case disposition and discipline. Based on the policy of the State Board of Education, there is no right to a hearing in athletics for the very reason that participation in athletics is a privilege, not a right. The student athlete and/or his/her parents can, however, file a grievance with the Superintendent of Schools within three (3) days of the principal’s decision. Final disposition of violations and enforcement decision rests with the superintendent.
HISTORY OF INTER-SCHOLARISTIC SPORTS
Interscholastic athletics emerged in the United States during the latter half of the nineteenth century, and like their collegiate level counterpart, they were organized and directed initially by students. The students at Worcester, Massachusetts High School inaugurated high school athletics when they formed a BASEBALL team in 1859. Students, eager for victory, recruited nonstudents for their teams, a practice that caused school administrators to take control of athletics. Although some New England boarding schools, public schools in Philadelphia and Buffalo, and private ACADEMIES in Chicago fielded teams during the 1860s, interscholastic athletics were not firmly established until the closing decades of the nineteenth century when social goals fostered by the Progressive movement gave athletics a useful purpose in America’s high schools.
As Progressives labored to reduce turmoil in America’s cities, they looked for a means of controlling youth whose affiliation with urban gangs resulted in deviant behavior. They believed athletics would keep youth occupied and hasten their transition into productive adults. An advocate of Progressive reform, LUTHER GULICK, Director of Physical Education in New York City, organized the Public Schools Athletic League in 1903. The PSAL sponsored interschool competition and self-testing fitness activities during the school day. So successful was Gulick’s program that the PSAL prototype was duplicated in dozens of American cities, including Washington, DC, where Edwin B. Henderson adopted it for the District’s segregated black schools. In 1905 Gulick and his assistant, Elizabeth Burchenal, organized the Girls’ Branch of PSAL that emphasized noncompetitive activities. But in other cities at this time, namely Chicago and Los Angeles, girls athletics, particularly BASKETBALL, were highly competitive, though short-lived due to increasing social pressures to mold girls into refined young ladies in Chicago and to entice boys to stay in school in Los Angeles. High school athletics thus became the domain of boys. In extolling the educational benefits of athletics, educators not only defended the necessity of high school athletics, but they now had reason to expand physical education programs where they could assign athletic coaches for full-time administrative control.
In the aftermath of World War I, interscholastic athletics experienced enormous growth. The number of athletic teams multiplied as high school enrollments increased. City and county leagues crowned champions in baseball, football, and basketball, states organized tournaments for major sports, and the National Federation of High Schools open its doors in 1920 to preserve the educational integrity of athletics.
Although intersectional competition in baseball and football dates to the early 1900s, New York and Chicago held seven intercity baseball championships during the 1920s. Intersectional rivalries in football were more widespread as teams from New England and Mid-Atlantic states played schools from the Midwest. Schools in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and other states initiated rivalries with opponents in nearby states. From 1921 to 1924, Illinois high schools participated in nine intersectional contests each year that involved teams from Toledo, Cleveland, Louisville, Detroit, and Baltimore.
The University of Chicago sparked a trend of national tourneys when it hosted the National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament (NIBT) from 1917 to 1930. Catholic schools, excluded from NIBT, established their own tour-ney, NCIBT, at Loyola University in 1924. By 1928, thirty-two teams from around the country participated in this fiveday event. Catholic schools declined NIBT’s overtures in 1929, and a year later NIBT lost credibility when it denied an invitation to Phillips High School’s all-black team, Chicago’s Public League Champions that annually received an automatic bid. Black high schools held their own national basketball tournament at Tuskegee Institute, Tennessee A & I, and Hampton Institute in Virginia.
African-American and female athletes endured an uphill battle to gain entry into interscholastic athletics. Excluded from the beginning, African Americans had to contend with such sanctioned segregation policies as they experienced in Indiana, for example, where the state association barred “colored” schools from participating in the state tournament from its inception in 1908 until 1942. Female athletes played competitive interschool basketball early on, but soon feminine propriety and the prospect of future motherhood caught up with them. Physicians and educators feared sports damaged child-bearing organs, and female physical educators denounced competition as unladylike. During the 1920s, girls’ high school basketball in North Carolina, for instance, was highly popular among white and African-American schools. But in North Carolina and elsewhere, female physical educators gained control of girls’ athletics and replaced competition with a participation model that emphasized socialization and friendship. White schools followed suit, but most African-American schools continued with the competitive model. The feminist movement of the 1960s and the enactment of Title IX in 1972 reopened the doors of interscholastic competition for girls.
Commercialization, Specialization, and Exploitation
During the last quarter of the twentieth century, commercialism drove the course of high school athletics. National tournaments and intersectional contests returned on a grand scale. Post season all-star games and roundball classics abounded. Hundreds of high schools created Internet web sites that featured their athletic programs. In the 1980s USA Today began ranking the Top 25 boys and girls high school teams each season in sports such as basketball, football, baseball, and softball. Scouting services generate substantial revenue by identifying and tracking the most promising athletes for college recruiters. Some high schools, with financial support from footwear giants Nike and Adidas, recruited stellar athletes from other school districts. Increasing commercialism caused athletes to specialize in one particular sport in order to perfect their skills with the hope of someday landing a lucrative professional contract. Untold numbers resorted to steroids and other performance-enhancing substances to improve their lot of securing a college scholarship.
In many cities and towns across America, high school sports are at the center of the community. They provide entertainment, contribute to community building, and foster civic pride. But sometimes this creates an atmosphere where success in athletics becomes all-important, thereby forcing coaches to exploit young athletes. Nowhere was that more evident than in Texas high school football where H. G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights revealed the clout of Odessa’s Permian High School football program to supersede the school’s educational mission. The overmatched underdog seeking stardom from a tiny hamlet, as portrayed in the film Hoosiers, had all but disappeared from interscholastic athletics by the dawn of the twenty-first century.
ORGANISATION OF INTER-SCHOLASTIC SPORTS PROGRAMMME
The UIL governs only public schools and 2 private high schools. Activities for most Texas private schools are governed by separate bodies, the largest of which is TAPPS. However, private schools are allowed to join the UIL only if 1) they meet UIL’s definition of a high school, 2) they are accredited by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission, and 3) they are ineligible for membership in any league similar to UIL (such as TAPPS or the Southwest Preparatory Conference). Furthermore, private schools must compete at one classification higher than their enrollment would otherwise dictate (charter schools are not subject to this restriction). UIL schools are permitted to schedule contests with private schools and/or home school groups.
Schools are arranged by classification to ensure that schools compete on a regular basis with other schools in the geographic area of a similar size. The classifications are A (the smallest), AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA (the largest). The corresponding alphanumeric designations (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, and 5A) are used in everyday conversation, but officially UIL only uses the alphabetic designations. The general guideline is that the UIL desires between 220-245 schools in Class AAAAA, at least 200 schools in Classes AA, AAA, and AAAA with the grades 9-12 enrollment ratio for those classes no greater than 2.0 between the largest and smallest school in each class, and Class A consisting of all other schools.
In addition, for football participation, a school whose enrollment is at or below 99.5 students may choose to play either six-man football or 11-man Class A football. The school is included in a Class A district for all other events. Class A schools with enrollments over 99.5 are only eligible for 11-man football; however, some schools organize a six-man team and play an “outlaw” schedule (i.e., the school is not eligible for the postseason). Moreover, for some events (such as team tennis or swimming and diving), the UIL organizes all participating schools into Class AAAAA and Class AAAA, with the latter encompassing all schools not meeting the Class AAAAA enrollment requirements.
Within each classification, the UIL separates the schools in regions, and then further separates the regions into districts for various contests. The districts are numbered from 1 (in far west Texas) to 32 (in south Texas). There are always 32 districts in Class AAAAA and Class AAAA, but the smaller classifications may have numbers skipped based on the number of schools in the classification. No more than 10 schools are permitted in a single district unless all schools and the UIL consent otherwise; the preference is for an even number of schools in each district (6, 8, 10) though in some cases travel issues may prevent such.
Previously, schools were permitted to request to be placed in a higher classification than their enrollment would otherwise dictate, usually to play at a higher level of competition. The “play up” rule was later eliminated for competition reasons, but has been retained for geographic reasons (where playing at the current level would create a travel hardship for the school), and where school districts with eight or more high schools could keep all or most of them in the same classification. However, the school must then participate at the higher classification in all UIL events in which it does participate.
Each type of contest has different regions and competitors, as there is no requirement that a school participate in all UIL events – some small rural schools do not participate in football or choose six-man over 11-man, while some magnet schools do not field athletic teams but participate in academic events only.
Unlike the college ranks or other states, the regions and districts are not permanently set, but are redrawn biennially by the UIL behind closed doors in an attempt to keep schools within a certain distance of their geographic area when attending competitions, and to adjust for the changing enrollments of schools (moving schools with increased attendance up in classification and those with decreased attendance down). The main redrawing of regions and districts takes place on February 1 of even-numbered years (and the final allocation, especially relating to high school football, is the subject of much pre-announcement anticipation and speculation as to which schools move up or down and the final composition of the districts), but as new schools open or smaller schools close, interim adjustments can be made. The changing districts and regions have produced unusual results – for example, the 2008-09 Class AAAAA boys’ basketball championship featured champion DeSoto from Region II defeating Cedar Hill from Region I, notwithstanding that the schools are in neighboring districts.
Though UIL is best known as the governing body for public school athletic competition, it also hosts numerous academic competitions as well. Between athletics, music, and academics, UIL estimates that half of all public high school graduates have competed in at least one UIL-sanctioned event during their high school tenure.
The state level academic competitions are held on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. In 2012, the semifinals and finals of cross-examination debate will be held at the Texas State Capitol.
For fine arts and journalism contests, the UIL has not adopted an “amateur rule.” Thus, students who have acted or performed professionally or who have written for a local newspaper may still compete in UIL-sanctioned contests provided they are otherwise eligible.
Any student who competes at a state academic meet (at any high school grade) is also eligible to apply for a scholarship from the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation, an affiliate of UIL. The student must attend college in Texas full-time and meet certain grade requirements.
EMPIRICAL STUDIES ON INTER-SCHOLASTIC SPORTS PROGRAMME
Interscholastic sports programs, in which schools compete with other schools in league or conference settings, have been established at the vast majority of middle schools. The percentage of middle schools offering interscholastic sports programs has increased from 50% in 1968, to 77% in 1993, to 96% in 2003 (McEwin, Dickinson, & Jenkins, 2003; McEwin & Swaim, 2007). However, a national survey conducted in 2000 found a dramatic decline in the percentage of middle schools offering intramural sports programs, those typically organized to allow wide participation and do not include competition with other schools, (Valentine, Clark, Hackmann, & Petzko, 2002). A national study of middle school sports programs conducted in 2003 revealed that only 58% of middle schools had intramural sports programs (McEwin & Swaim). This trend in decreasing percentages of middle schools providing intramural opportunities is disturbing, considering the importance of the physical well being of all young adolescents.
There is widespread belief that participation in interscholastic sports offers many advantages for young adolescents. However, research showing increases in injury rates, concerns about psychological stress, instances of unqualified adult leadership, and high attrition rates in middle level sports programs has raised issues that need to be addressed (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2002; Cary, 2004; Centers for Disease Control, 2002; Coakley, 1987; Engh, 2002; Gerdy, 2002; Mac, 1998; McEwin & Swaim, 2007, 2008; Noonan, 2003; Swaim & McEwin, 2005). One concern is the long-term psychological effects of cutting young adolescents from teams on which they would like to participate. This elimination is based on factors beyond the control of those wishing to participate (e.g., maturational differences, capricious nature of coaches’ judgments). Eliminating young adolescents from teams denies them opportunities to learn new skills, to build confidence in their abilities, and to develop positive interactions with their peers. One result of this cutting process is that many young adolescents drop out of all future sports participation (McEwin & Dickinson, 1998; Ogilvie, 1988). For this and other reasons, the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (2002) has recommended no-cut policies be adopted. There is evidence that some middle schools do have policies that prevent cuts from competitive sports. McEwin and Swaim (2007) found that the majority of middle schools responding to their 2003 national survey had no-cut policies in some sports (56%), with 10% of the schools having no-cut policies in all sports.
Many positive benefits for young adolescents can result from participation in competitive sports programs. However, when young adolescent needs and interests become secondary to pressures and unreasonable expectations from coaches, parents, the community, and even themselves, participation often has the opposite effect. Young adolescents’ psychological, as well as physical, well-being should be a priority in developing middle level sports programs (Darst & Pangrazi, 2002; McEwin & Dickinson, 1997; National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2002; Patel, 2001). The focus of middle level competitive sports should be on helping young adolescents set goals that reflect their current interests and abilities. This makes it easier for them to emphasize improvement instead of the highly competitive aspects of sports that frequently pit one athlete against another (McEwin & Swaim, 2007).
Middle level sports programs that are developmentally inappropriate deserve attention, because the health and welfare of young adolescents are at stake. Those in decision-making positions need to make difficult and courageous decisions regarding the sports offered and the conditions of these sports. Middle level interscholastic sports programs are neither inherently good nor inherently bad. The quality of these programs makes the difference. There are many actions that can be taken to help ensure that middle level sports programs are as safe as possible and developmentally responsive (e.g., quality coaching, maintaining proper competitive environments, improved supervision). Adults who have the responsibility for middle school programs can and should take the necessary steps to make participation in intramural and interscholastic sports developmentally responsive for young adolescents (McEwin & Swaim, 2007; Sports Done Right, 2005).
What is the proper role of middle level interscholastic sports competition? This continues to be a perplexing question for administrators and other stakeholders who are responsible for the health and safety of young adolescents who participate in these sports. This We Believe (2003) states that “intramural and extracurricular activities that require physical activity must be developmentally appropriate, be open to the entire student body, and comply with recognized national standards” (p. 32). However, there is much evidence that demonstrates the reality that many middle level interscholastic sports programs fall short of meeting these criteria (McEwin & Swaim, 2007).
Providing all young adolescents with opportunities to participate, build their skill levels, and experience the positive outcomes that can result from well-planned sports programs is a high priority in developmentally responsive sports programs. This also means, however, that there is less emphasis placed on win-loss records and producing championship teams. Emphasis on more inclusive and safer practices often leads to changes (e.g., rule changes, less playing time for elite athletes, no-cut policies, and fewer sports competitions each season) that are controversial among parents, sports fans, coaches, and others.
Even middle level schools that have made significant gains in creating and implementing other aspects of developmentally responsive programs and practices have typically avoided the controversy that accompanies making middle level sports programs responsive to the characteristics, needs, and interests of young adolescents (McEwin & Swaim, 2007). In many cases, the appropriateness of middle level interscholastic sports has not even been examined because of a prevailing assumption that traditional sports programs serve the age group well. Although it is often understood that significant changes are needed to make the interscholastic sports programs more developmentally appropriate, stakeholders back away from advocating for these changes for fear of being unpopular with parents of successful athletics and anticipated criticism from community members, coaches, and the press. However, there are also those who believe that interscholastic sports programs should be developmentally responsive and stand ready to make the changes needed to provide all young adolescents with opportunities to participate in school-sponsored sports programs that are inclusive, safe, and enjoyable.
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