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Change paves way for sixth-grade athletic participation

posted Aug 12, 2016, 7:39 AM by Cheryl Shuffler
The North Carolina State Board of Education is giving LEA’s the choice to allow sixth graders to play middle school sports, with the exception of football. The board revised the Interscholastic Athletics Policy (HRS-D-001) on Thursday, Aug. 4. The new policy changes the grade level at which students may participate in interscholastic competition from grades 7 – 12 to grades 6 – 12. The middle school sports affected are volleyball, soccer, wrestling, softball, baseball, track and basketball.

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Larry Putnam said, “Our Central Office, principals and coaches are excited about the opportunities the policy change will create for the district’s five middle schools. We see this as a positive change with many favorable factors. While the announcement of the change comes just 25 days before the start of the new school year, volleyball and soccer are the only sanctioned middle school sports that will be affected for the fall season. Our middle schools will hold tryouts the first week of school and will now be able to welcome sixth graders onto the teams.”

Putnam said the advantages of allowing sixth graders to play middle school sports include:

· helping smaller schools find enough players to fill team rosters

· providing additional opportunities for students to be engaged in the school experience

· providing students with earlier access to quality instruction, skill development and positive role models as well as additional, organized physical activity

· helping ease the transition to middle school

Putnam said, “Our Burke County Board of Education is in favor of providing our students with as many opportunities as possible for them to become involved in leadership roles and extracurricular activities and gain a sense of belonging, and athletics is one avenue that checks all of those boxes. Participation in sports can lead to better grades, better student behaviors and better overall physical health.”

The change also paves the way for sixth graders to try out for the non-sanctioned sport of cheerleading. Putnam explained that because the middle schools held cheerleading tryouts late last school year, the cheerleading teams for the football season are already set.

He said, “I understand the cheerleaders have worked all summer raising funds for uniforms and equipment, and that they have already learned routines, cheers and dances. Our plan is to hold another tryout in late September for cheerleaders for the basketball team. At that time, sixth graders will be allowed to go out for cheerleading to be added to the squad and those currently on the squad will keep their positions.”

Putnam said the middle schools will have one team level instead of both junior varsity and varsity teams.

As a reminder, students need a medical physical to participate in school athletics.