Will Travel and AAU Athletics Ever Replace Middle School Athletics

With budgets being cut and with schedules being reduced significantly to help reduce budget constraints, how long will it be before AAU and Travel Athletics replace middle school athletic teams.

When I was teaching and coaching at the junior high school levels back in the 60′s, the physical educationn teachers taught the skills of each team sport regardless of what it was in their physical education classes..

The schools athletic program was based on a triangle with the base of that triangle being the physical education classes where the fundamentals of each team sport was taught to all students taking those physical education classes.

After these fundamentals were taught then intramural activities for those interested in furthering their developmemnt in a particular sport. This was the middle of the triangle and of course there was less involved with intramurals then the physical education classes.

The top of the triangle was the Varsity Teams, today classified as A or B Teams. These, of course, involved fewer students who were really, had the ability, interest and desire to compete in a particular sport at the highest level of competition the school could offer.

These athletes on the varsity teams were not allowed to participate in the intramural programs except as referees, scorers and timers. There was an officials club where the varsity athletes were prepared and learned to become officials, timers and scorers in order to help run the school’s intramural programs.

This also gave the students a better understanding of the sport in which they were involved in. Non-varsity players were also allowed to take these official courses.

They were usually taught by the physical education teacher.

Currently, travel programs are run during the seasons in the fall, winter and spring. These travel teams are made up of the highly skilled athletes who have to try out for the travel teams.

They are run at the same time that the schools programs are run. They play games usually on weekends when middle school do not have games or events scheduled. They also usually practice on Fridays as that is a day that many schools at the middle school level do not practice or play. However, if there is a game or practice then the travel teams will practice after the middle school teams practice or play.

These type of programs have an advantage over the middle school programs as they do not have to deal with parent interference about playing time. The players play with and against better competition in travel and AAU programs. Playing with and against better competition is the best way to really improve team sport skills. They certainly play more games and the games are more competitive.

I can see down the road that this could happen in some communities espcially with budget constraints. Middle schools used to play 16 game schedules, now they are down to 10 or so, they had end of season post season tournaments and many middle school leagues do not have these now.

There certainly has been a de-empahizing of athletics at some of the middle school leagues.

The Eastern Maine Travel League for Basketball under the leadership of Chris Caldwell of Hampden has close to 100 teams divided into boys and girls divisions for grades 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8.

This league is very well-organized and play their games on Saturdays and Sundays during the regular basketball season at the same time the middle schools are playing in their leagues.

This gives the above average basketball skilled players a real chance to develop further their basketball skills by, as I have said before, playing with and against better competition is the best way to improve athletic skills.

Don’t be surprised if your areas middle school end up ending their interscholastic athletic programs and turn to well run and well organized intramural programs for all.

The old defintion of “Intramurals” is the games are played within the walls of the school. Todays defintion is games played by students from the same school.

Intramurals are really more in line with many middle school philosophies or mission statements.

Before there were middle schools, there were junior high schools which housed 7-8-9 grade students and that was why interscholastic athletics were in line woith high school athletics because freshm,en usually are considered high school students and today most schools have freshmenat the high schools.

Maybe it’s time has come to let AAU and Travel take the place of middle school athletic programs, which would allow middle schools to concentrate on developing more intramural programs that would help develop more future high school athletes.

By having intramurals there will be more students participating and then at the end of the intramural season, teams could be selected of the better players and they could arrange several games against other middle schools in their areas.

Or they could have the winners of the intramural league by grade play the winners of the other niddle schools in their areas.

In 1960-61 I know Bob Kelley and I when we were teaching physical education, running intramurals and coaching football, basketball and baseball at Doughty Middle school in Bangor (Then 5th St. Jr, High and Cohen Middle school in Bangor(Then Garland St. Jr. High School) because they had freshmen, 8th and 7th graders were junior high schools.

We had freshmen varsity teams in Flag Football, Basketball and Baseball. We had 7th grade Intramurals, 8th grade intramurals and 9th grade intramurals. We taught the skills in physical education classes.

We had officials clubs for those interested in officiaiting, keeping time and keeping score.

We also took our individual grasde winners in flag football, basketball and Baseball and had a couple of playdays against each others school along with the varsity competition in football, basketball and baseball.