Wow!!! Did not even know there was a state that allowed 7th graders to participate in high school on their varsity teams. Take a look at the video in the following link:
Not sure where to start here. I suppose I should mention (for those here for the first time) that I am in full support of the intrinsic values competitive sports participation can bring to one’s table. That when the "right" perspective is taken and the "correct" lessons are emphasized, there are few environments that can bring to adolescents the comprehensive life teachings and health benefits that competitive sports do. Albeit, you might be hard pressed to see that sometimes, based on the winning at all costs attitudes and loss of perspective so common in our current sports and youth sports culture these days.
In addition, the issue presented, where junior high age students (7th & 8th grade) are allowed to participate in high school sports (even the varsity level), is not allowed here in Illinois—it’s not even a possibility to my knowledge. They are completely separate entities, and in most cases, completely separate schools and teams (actually found it strange that there was a state where this was possible).
And, from my perspective, being a current teacher (34+ years), former successful athlete, coach (17 years), and parent of two successful athletes who ran the gamut of athletic experience from park district, through club, junior high, high school, and on into DI college sports, I simply don’t see the need for any junior high school student (in any sport) to participate at the high school level.
I have had the wonderful opportunity and experience to see competitive sports from all sides, from the beginning level to elite level, from an athlete’s perspective, coach’s perspective, parent’s perspective, educator’s perspective, and spectator’s perspective, and even though I do see the points being made for allowing such competition based on the rules Minnesota has, I don’t believe it to be in the best interest of athletes as a whole. There just is no need to do this as it brings unnecessary complications.
Not competing in high school will not hurt junior high athletes in their development, as their age and years left to compete, leaves plenty of room for growth. And there are plenty of other opportunities outside of the high school venue to get “extra” or “higher level” training if the athlete so wishes.
The argument that students with higher levels of educational abilities in academic areas (something pointed out in the comment section of this CBS piece) are allowed to take course work at the high school level (something, to my knowledge, that an Illinois student can also do in many school districts, or there are higher level opportunities already in place at their respective junior highs) does, initially, hold some logic.
However, the type of competitive aspects that sports bring (along with the increased intensity and risk of injury that that brings) makes it a completely different animal. That is irrespective of the fact that I, personally, looked at competitive sports as a “part” of my own kid’s education…life education.
To me, the argument boils down to fairness. If the state of Minnesota believes it to be in the best interest of its student population to allow junior high students to participate on high school varsity teams (something, for many reasons, I do not agree with and would not support) then all should be able to do so. And that statement has absolutely nothing to do with one team “winning” or having an advantage over another as that does perpetuate a “winning at all costs” attitude in sports, something I am vehemently against.
For a school district to arbitrarily make a rule different than their state guidelines is, well…unfitting, even if it is for, in my mind, the “right” reasons. It would be best, for all concerned, for the state of Minnesota to simply not allow junior high students to compete in high school at all, in any sport. There is time; there is no rush, there are other opportunities for higher level training. Trust me…if they are going to develop into exceptional athletes, allowing them to compete in high school at the varsity level is simply NOT going to be the deciding factor in that mix.