West Virginia school district weighs mandatory participation rule for middle school teams

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally
The South Charleston Cubs are among the programs that would have to play all students who want to compete — Facebook
The South Charleston Cubs are among the programs that would have to play all students who want to compete — Facebook

If you want to ensure your middle school-aged child gets on to the field or court of their choice, now might be the time to move to Charleston, W. Va.

As reported by Charleston news outlet WSAZ and the Charleston Gazette, a new proposal in Kanawha County (W. Va.) would require middle school coaches find playing time for all students who want to compete on their teams. This is a step beyond the occasional mandates that force coaches to keep anyone who wants to compete on a team’s roster. This time, all those players will have to see time on the court or field.

Mandatory participation is a regular staple of youth sports leagues everywhere, so what Kanawha County is proposing isn’t a novel concept. Yet, it is a unique policy for sanctioned school sports. Players at Kanawha County schools will be within two years of high school competition, where no one expects to receive a guaranteed spot on a varsity team, let alone guaranteed playing time.

If that seems like an indication that the new middle school policy in Kanawha County might be at odds with social expectations, it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be embraced. Some advocates of the policy proposed by school board member Becky Jordan have been very vocal in their support of equal participation across the board.

Not Jason Waezelle, the father of a girls basketball player at Dupont Middle School in Kanawha.

"They're going to go for their first job interview, they're going to ask their first prom date out, and they're going to be told no," Waezelle told WSAZ. "It's something they have to learn to deal with.

"[The younger Waezelle] paid her dues. She sat on the bench for two years and did the things she was supposed to do."

Coaches in the area are also raising health concerns about the proposed new policy.

"I can't jeopardize the safety of one student for another," South Charleston Middle School football coach Scott Canada told the Gazette. "I'm not going to compromise a 70-pound sixth-grader's welfare just to get them on the field if they're not prepared or ready to play," Canada said. "I try to play as many of my student athletes as possible, but there are times people don't get to play. Whether or not that's fair, I have to give an opportunity to those students who are at practice every day, who work the hardest and who are dedicated."

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Cameron Smith is the editor of Prep Rally on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at preprallyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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