BOE hears update on revised middle school sports programs

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
During the last school year, the Bristol Board of Education was forced to make changes in the school district to alleviate cost for this school year. One of the changes was replacing middle school sports with intramural programs, so students still had the opportunity to participate in a sports program that allowed for more students to join, while saving the district some money.
Ellen Benham, the district’s athletic director, said the fall season was a successful one, with 400 students in the district participating in middle school intramural sports.
The sports offered for the fall season were soccer, running, volleyball and flag football. Benham said the students would have an instruction portion of each practice, and then small games.
“The students enjoyed a very healthy level of activities,” Benham said at a recent Board of Education meeting.
There was a jamboree in October at Chippens Hill Middle School where all of the teams had games against each school. Benham said one thing she discovered was that each middle school is very different in terms of sports ability. She said even though some students weren’t at the same ability level, “they still had a great time because they were part of a team.”
For the winter season, students will be able to choose from boys or girls basketball, skiing, and another kind of “movement activity” like zumba or aerobics, Benham said. Coaches were expected to sign up after Thanksgiving, and students would be signing up after that.
“We should have every thing going by Christmas,” she said. “The students are enjoying the experience, and we hope to continue that through the winter.”
Many parents of middle school athletes had been discouraged by this move and were vocal to the school board about it. They have said they were concerned with competition levels and the athletes who want to continue to high school sports may not get the training they need to advance after middle school. However, board members have said having intramural sports, while it saves the board money, also will allow for more students to get involved in an after-school activity, and enhance the social skills and increase activity levels.