The county's Board of Education has begun discussions on the future of middle school sports programs. It is our opinion that the programs should continue within these schools.
As the Chronicle addressed in a previous editorial position, the obesity rate in West Virginia continues to grow. The sports teams promoted and encouraged at the middle school level offer exercise opportunities for those youngsters who go out for the teams. Physical education is not taught on a daily basis within the schools these days and sometimes the exercise garnered from being a member of the team is the only exercise done by these kids.
And, speaking of team, the sense of being on a team and being a part of a group is essential to the students who take part. The opportunity affords them a common goal and a method of working to achieve that goal through hard work, cooperation and sportsmanship. The "team" can be a place to belong, sometimes the only such place a young boy or girl feels they have.
While advocates of the movement to eliminate middle school sports in favor of youth leagues indicate that these leagues provide adequate time and experience to prepare student athletes for high school sports, one must keep in mind that these leagues offer their services for a fee. The Chronicle is aware that often there are scholarship moneys available for participation in the leagues; however, oftentimes parents are not aware. For example, the Little League program cannot, by national charter, make players pay for their participation; however, local leagues charge as much as $70 per child or more to register. Money is necessary to fund the league and its expenses; however, to limit athletic choices to those leagues will eliminate an opportunity for many young people because of the financial costs or at least the advertised financial costs.
Instead of eliminating the younger program, the school system should embrace it as a means to physical activity, lessons in teamwork and potential self-esteem. To eliminate the middle school program in favor of a freshman program at the high school level, which was also discussed, does not do either of these things. In fact, the freshman program should be reinstated to offer these assets to those who would not be chosen at the varsity or junior varsity levels or who receive no playing time at those levels. Athletics at any level within our education system are a win for the participants at least until physical education is brought back into the daily curriculum.