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Why a No-Cut Policy for Middle School Teams Is a Good Idea

Memo to Principal from Concerned Parent

  • Those children who are cut from sports teams are not going to be exercising as frequently as they would if they were playing sports; they are much more likely to spend their afternoons watching television, or worse. The old saw "A healthy body, healthy mind" is apt. Our youth are not as physically fit as they should be. Why continue a policy that only contributes to the decline in physical fitness?

  • We have talked to parents in other school systems in Massachusetts and other states. We feel that our town's approach on youth sports needs to be revamped. We know that with enough planning and parental input our sports program has the potential to be as strong and as equitable as many of the other schools in the nation. The following are some of our ideas:

    • Eliminate the negative practice of cutting some kids from teams at the middle school level. Sports and child psychologists have written numerous articles on the negative effects of cutting on a child's self-esteem. As teachers you should never be put in the position of having to say to a student "I'm sorry you are not good enough to represent this school." This is especially true if a coach is also a classroom teacher.

    • Combine the intramural and travel program. Utilize both coaches to coach the larger group. Eliminate coed teams. Break the larger group down into smaller groups for practice and travel. One week the "Maroon team" travels, the next week the "Gold" team has a chance, and the following week the "White" team will have the experience. Each child would be assessed a user fee of $25.00 instead of $50.00. This model is working in other towns and has many advantages. Children who are "late bloomers" are kept in the program. Not only does this benefit the kids themselves, but, by keeping the talent pool large, it ultimately helps the high school field the best possible teams. Usually by the time children are in the 9th or 10th grades they will "self" cut. The more successful school sports programs try to keep kids in the "loop" as long as possible.

    • Use high school students or licensed parent volunteers. If money is an issue (and it almost always is), find high school students looking to fulfill their community service obligations or get help from licensed parent volunteers (For instance, many parents have soccer licenses from the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association).

    In closing we would like to volunteer our time to be part of a task group to look at ways of including all children who would like to spend their afternoons doing something positive and constructive. We know of children in our town who have turned to alcohol and drugs as a direct result of being cut from a sports team at a time when they were particularly unsure of themselves and vulnerable to peer pressure. We have a vested interest in seeing that all of the middle school students feel great about themselves, and will do everything possible to show the community that an all-inclusive sports program can work at the middle school level. After all, if only a small percent of the kids who try out for a spot on a team make the team, how fair is the existing system? Why are we servicing a select, elite few? Why should just a fraction of the students be served? Please let us know how we can help facilitate the process so that, starting in the fall, we have a middle school sports program that is the best it can be.

    Additional Information: You can read more on this subject in Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins 2006) by author and MomsTeam founder Brooke de Lench