The Clinton City Schools Board of Education has decided to join its counterparts in the county by allowing students to begin playing school sports in sixth grade.
Beginning next school year, students in grades 6-8 will be allowed to play all middle school sports, with the exception of football. Only seventh- and eighth -graders will be allowed to play football at the middle school level. Approval comes on the heels of the Sampson County Board of Education’s recent decision to do likewise.
“Sampson County Schools will be in our same conference and we are asking for approval so we can be on the same page,” interim superintendent Dr. Stewart Hobbs said Thursday during the board’s work session.
Throughout Clinton City Schools the number of students participating in middle school sports continues to decline — a problem attributed to travel leagues. According to Sampson Middle School principal Greg Dirks, there were 13 players on both the middle school softball and baseball teams.
“You aren’t going to get a ton, but there are some student athletes that can benefit,” Hobbs attested.
The state changed the rules, allowing sixth graders to play middle school sports, a couple years ago, and so far 68 systems have made the change. With Sampson County Schools being one of those systems, Hobbs explained that Sampson Middle students would be at a disadvantage if the system forced youngsters to wait until seventh grade to join school sports teams.
“It really is a good idea if you want to establish a strong high school program,” Hobbs stressed.
Years ago, Dirks explained, sixth-grade students were allowed to serve as team manager, but due to insurance and liability, the school had to stop allowing that practice. Now, with sixth-graders being allowed to play sports, board members say the kids will be able to feel like they are part of the school.
“As a student, you will feel like you can do something if you are allowed to start playing sports in sixth grade,” board chairwoman Carol Worley said.
As the local travel leagues have continued to grow, board members say players are prepared earlier to play organized sports for the school.
“We have a lot of kids playing travel ball and they are ready to start playing for the school,” board member Jason Walters expressed.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.