Playing Up

Playing+Up

Katie Bucher, Writer

The ozone cheers and the crowd goes wild as the eighth graders get ready to go into the varsity game. Playing a high school sport while in middle school can be a controversial topic for some. There are pros but also some cons for middle school students to play up in a high school sport.

Playing up as a middle school student has many good things that come with it. Starting at a younger age can put an athlete at a jump start for when they get to high school with their classmates. “It sets me up for the future because it has made me realize you have to put 100% effort in everything not just in sports. My coach is big about welcoming everyone on the team. She had taught me how to deal with other relationships like coach to player or player to coach,” said Hayden Gessner, eighth grader. Another benefit of participating in sports as a middle schooler is the opportunity to work with other students, develop social skills as well as communication skills. Learning to work as a team is an invaluable skill no matter what the age or what an athlete is doing. Working together is not only a skill needed in sports but will prepare a student for the future. Participating in team sports is also great for developing self-esteem. Kaylee Mills, eighth grader, said, “I enjoy the experience and getting to play with older people.” Being part of a team can build student’s confidence as an individual, and it may help them feel more confident outside of school as well. There are many benefits that come out of playing a high school sport in middle school.

Even though there are many pros, there are also some cons that come with playing up. A challenge associated with sports in high school is the cost. Schools all over the country are experiencing budget cuts and extra-curricular programs are often the first to go. Sports require schools to pay for many things like transportation and officials. Not only do sports programs cost schools money, but they can sometimes be expensive for the athletes themselves. Some schools require students to purchase their uniforms and equipment, a financial budget that some families cannot carry. Natalie Hinegardner, eighth grader, said, “Sometimes shoes, additional equipment, and spirit wear can be expensive when it all adds up.”

Sports are great for middle schoolers, but they need to make sure that they don’t take priority over their academics. Players have to make sure they finish all their homework and that they maintain good grades while participating in sports. It is easy for an athlete to be more worried about a sport or their next game and can lose track of their schoolwork. “Some challenges were going against older and more experienced players,” said Max Merz, eighth grader. Although there are some challenges can come with playing a high school sport, athletes can learn a lot playing at a younger age. Merz said, “I think I made the right decision because it sets me up by getting to know the coaches and the plays”

Merz is one of the many eighth graders that played up in high school. He plays for the freshman football team and his coach, Mr. Mick Abner, had some things to say about him. “Max Merz has extraordinary size and strength for being only in the eighth grade. We feel it would have done Max a disservice if he had played with his appropriate grade class in 2021. Max has always played up a grade since he started playing back in the 3rd grade. There were years he did have classmates on his teams but when the age/grade would advance, so did Max. Max has benefited greatly from playing up with the older kids throughout the years.”

Mr. Aaron Lense, middle school Athletic Director, said, “This is a mixed answer for me. Being the Middle School AD, I want all our middle schoolers to play for our teams because we will be more successful using our best players. However, I also understand that we are just an extension of the high school athletic program, so ultimately, we are trying to prepare everyone to have the best varsity team possible.”

Playing a high school sport while in middle school has its perks, but there can also be some cons that come along with it. In the end it is a personal decision that student athletes must make with the help of parents and coaches.