Monfredo: Middle School Sports Needs to Move Forward
Saturday, June 02, 2018
John Monfredo, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™
Just a few weeks ago one hot topic discussed at the School Committee level was Middle School Sports. Years ago the Worcester Public Schools offered not only Middle School Sports but also an Elementary competitive after-school sports programs. Due to a declining budget those programs were cut.
Back in 2013, I filed an agenda item along with Mr. O’Connell asking administration whether Middle School Sports could be implemented and the answer came out negative. However, what did take place was an intramural sports program for the students but I wondered why can’t we have both? The idea when I filed the motion then as well as now was that the social interaction at the Middle School level was important and a sports program would offer the students many benefits.
Research certainly backs up this concept for it has been reported in multiple studies over the last decade that students who participated in sports had an average grade of 3.151, while non-athletes had a much lower average. Athletes had higher grades than non-athletes even when socioeconomic status, gender, age and family composition was taken into account. This information was published by the NASSP Bulletin, the journal of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Remember as students move into middle school, recess times that once were a regular part of elementary school days become a thing of the past. Keep in mind that middle school is an awkward time of physical development and often significant changes in social relationships. Thus, sports programs give students a chance to use some energy, boost self-esteem, get fit and develop the confidence needed to live life as a teen.
Also, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, youth sports participation also reduces the likelihood that teens will eventually drop out of school and increases their chances of attending college.
With a new administration headed by Superintendent Maureen Binienda the question was asked can we move forward and phase in Middle School sports? Every School Committee member articulated interest in bringing it back if we could find the resources necessary to sustain the program. Our Superintendent, a former coach at South High, was very positive about this possibility and will report back to the committee with suggestions at our next School Committee meeting.
As a former coach in and outside of the schools, I can attest to the value of sports at that level and have seen first -hand how it has positively impacted students in the Middle School. Also, just this year with the assistance of Linda McGill, District Little League administrator in Worcester, I was able to start a competitive softball ball program at Forest Grove Middle School. Thanks to donations from businesses such as the Worcester Bravehearts and Dick’s Sporting Goods the girls were outfitted with uniforms, equipment furnished by the school and they now are good to go. Middle School Principal Kareem Tatum supported the program when I met with him and volunteered to pay for an umpire with school funds for home games at Vernon Hill Field thanks to the efforts of Mrs. McGill. A special thank you goes out to staff members Christine Mooshian, Kaitlyn Hannen, Jessica McDermott, Emily Mooshian, and Robin Milasweski who all volunteered to coach the girl’s softball team and provide transportation to the games. Wow, five dedicated teachers! The team has been having a great season with a 5-1 record thus far playing private schools in Worcester and public schools outside of our city and most importantly having fun. Thus, a few individuals reached out with an idea of starting a team without any funding and made it happen at Forest Grove this year.
The point is that Middle School sports can be done with a private-public partnership if we have individuals who are willing to get together and make it happen. My advice as we move forward is for administration to form a committee of Middle school members and community representatives such as D.A. Joseph Early, former city councilor Tony Economou and myself to discuss the following:
- Where will the resources come from? Possible answer… a city-wide fundraising effort led by the community. Effort needs be made to contact possible sponsorships from the community for uniforms and equipment and enlist the assistance of our local colleges. Then, a special fund earmarked for Middle School Sports could be established to continue the continuity and not have to rely on the school budget for funding.
- Resources for the program? Funding will have to come from the private sector as well as some funding from the schools. We know that there is a very tight budget but some funds could be allocated for this needed program.
- Are there enough playing fields or gymnasiums to play and practice? The answer is Yes!
- What sports and how many? You can’t do it all at once so phase in a sports program based on the interest of the schools. I would suggest that you have a program for the fall, winter and the spring with one sport or additional teams depending on the resources available. Obviously, we need sports programs for both the boys and the girls.
Finally, let’s start the process NOW so that we can have it in operation by the fall.
It can be done for I did it with one Middle School. I know and we have a great community willing to step up and assist. Participation in sports, as mentioned, has many benefits for your adolescents both on and off the playing field. It’s time to stop the talking and take action to make Middle School sports a reality.