By Jason Pacheco
Director of Athletics & Activities, Westport High School
Westport High School’s sports teams may be getting a little younger in the near future. The time has come for WHS to try a new tactic to get sports participation numbers to rise.
Cooperative teams have become the norm between WHS and Bishop Connolly High School as both schools sometimes struggle to field teams. Soon WHS will try to promote from within for the first time.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association allows schools to apply for a waiver that would grant middle school students permission to participate on high school teams. The MIAA asks schools to specify which grades would be promoted, as well as at which level they will be allowed to play. The MIAA does not allow schools to apply for both a coop team and a middle school waiver at the same time.
So starting this winter with girls basketball, Westport High School will look into applying for a waiver to allow 8th grade girls to play on the junior varsity basketball team at Westport High.
WHS has competed on the varsity level exclusively for the last two years, and the numbers have gotten dangerously low at times. The 2012-2013 team played the second half of their regular season and two state tournament games with only six players. A combination of another injury and a sick girl would have resulted in forfeits for the team.
With approval needed from the Mayflower Athletic Conference, head coach of the sport, both principals, superintendent, School Committee chair, and the director of athletics, Westport High will apply to the MIAA for the waiver.
If granted, all 8th grade girls would be allowed to play on the junior varsity team at WHS and it will not count toward their four years of athletic eligibility. The athletes will be exposed to the regimen that high school teams follow, while gaining valuable experience for the future.
What happens to our teams at Westport Middle School if these waivers are granted? They are allowed to continue competing with their team made up of 5th, 6th and 7th graders. Student-athlete participation at WMS has never been a problem. With fewer teams and higher enrollment at WMS, this change will now create opportunities for more youngsters to play on our teams at both schools. WMS will continue to have its rosters full, while WHS will be able to put more teams on the courts and fields in town.
Remarkably, Westport High School has maintained a reputation of fielding competitive athletic teams throughout the years, even though enrollment figures have dropped. Maybe through new opportunities for student-athletes, we can keep more students in town to get an excellent education at Westport High.