Middle school athletics could return to the Shawnee Mission School District next year. A proposal from the district would see the return of cross-country, wrestling, basketball and volleyball. Middle school sports were abandoned more than 25 years ago.
Shawnee Mission Athletic Director Matt Johnson presented the plan to the school board Monday during a work session. The plan is still in process at the district, but Johnson said it would include cross-country for boys and girls in seventh and eighth grades; boys wrestling in seventh and eighth; girls and boys basketball in eighth grade; and girls volleyball in eighth grade.
The programs would be no-cut with no student turned away and “plenty of playing time” for all team members. “(It’s about) skill development,” Johnson said. A goal is to increase participation and interest in healthy activities and open the program for more students to be involved, he said.
Johnson predicted four basketball teams at each of the five middle schools, but said the number of teams is dependent on the number of students interested in playing. In Blue Valley each team is limited to 12 players, he said, with multiple teams at each school. With the 8:45 a.m. middle school start, the Shawnee Mission schools could use their gyms for morning practices as well as after school.
By moving some of the sports, such as girls volleyball, off the high school season, that could allow high school coaches to be involved. Johnson said the plan is to hire the best coaches, either from teachers or parents.
The first year the teams, with the possible exception of cross-country, would compete only against other Shawnee Mission schools. Middle school football was deemed to costly and the district does not have the facilities for it, the board was told. Soccer might be included in the future.
The cost of the program was estimated at $280,000 per year for all five middle schools. The schools currently have an optional activity fee of $7. Raising that to $25 would give students free entry to games and help subsidize the programs, it was suggested.
The current intramural programs will remain in place, but would not include the sports in the athletic program. Intramurals could include kickball, whiffle ball, table tennis, soccer and a range of other sports, Johnson said. The $29,000 per school cost for intramurals could drop a little with the start of the new program, he said.
The middle school athletic program anticipates high school athletic directors taking on additional responsibilities for the programs.