Middle School Students Playing High School Sports

Butterflies in your stomach, feeling anxious and nervous before your first high school tryout:  How do you think you would feel as a 7th or 8th grader, one or two years younger than a freshman, and literally half the weight and size of an upperclassman? Every student athlete looks forward to the day they can finally participate in high school sports.  In every sport they want the most amount of playing time they can get. What happens when playing time is taken away by a student who does not even go to the high school?  Is it really necessary to have students from the middle school tryout for high school sports?

According to the Pentucket Athletic Director, Dan Thornton, Pentucket Middle School participation in high school sports is a result of Mr. Seymour becoming principal of both the middle school and high school.  Mr. Thornton further commented that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has a rule that allows middle school students to participate as long as one principal oversees both schools.

Although this new policy of permitting middle school students to participate in high school sports has not affected any Pentucket teams division wise, it has affected athlete’s attitudes. Bobby Barry replied, “Wait, that’s a thing?  That’s absolutely absurd.”  For the most part, the majority of student athletes interviewed felt the same way, claiming high school sports should be for high schoolers.

A number felt it was just not fair to give younger students an opportunity they simply did not have.  Ben Klosowski jokingly added, “I don’t think they can handle the fish bowl way of life.”

High school students are not alone in questioning the district’s decision to include middle school students in high school sports.  One parent, who preferred to remain anonymous, commented, “I guess I see more negatives, particularly with regard to middle school athlete size, effect on youth programs, and the negative impact it may have on divisional play.”

Another parent, who also chose to remain anonymous added, “If the district is allowing middle school athletes 6 years of eligibility, they should give additional years of eligibility to existing school athletes that may have had an off year academically.”

However, the rules governing middle school participation and eligibility are dictated by the MIAA.  Although the MIAA has rules permitting middle school participation, it also has rules limiting current high school student’s eligibility.  According to rule 59.1, “A student shall be eligible for interscholastic competition for no more than four consecutive years after initially entering grade 9.”  This is regardless of whether or not you participate.

Given the MIAA’s rules, it is questionable whether or not the district will be able to permit middle school participation to continue after this academic year.  According to an article by Jennifer Solis in the Newburyport Daily News on August 1, 2013, Superintendent Mulqueen moved Dr. Lay from the Pentucket Middle School to the Dr. John C. Page Elementary School on an interim basis, and intends to have a new principal in place there before July 1, 2014.  Assuming Dr. Lay returns as principal of the Pentucket Middle School, and Mr. Seymour returns to serving exclusively as principal of the Pentucket High School, middle school participation in high school sports at Pentucket will end.   The question is, if this may only be in effect for one year, why try it at all?