By MARINA WATERS
Washington County’s middle school students could join forces with combined teams in the future.
The Washington County Board of Education discussed potentially combining the middle school-aged teams on the north side and teams on the south side of the county. The school board did not take action and the school system’s athletics committee did not have a recommendation at Thursday’s regularly scheduled school board meeting.
“It helps us as a system have better head coaches in those positions,” School board member and athletics committee chairman Todd Ganger said. “By doing that, you’re getting your kids ready for the high school level. I have always said one of Washington County’s problems in athletics has always been our kids go to the high school and they don’t even know the sport they’ve been playing since they were little kids. I see the positives in this.”
If the baseball and softball teams on each side of the county were to combine, there would be two varsity and two junior varsity teams for the north side and the south side, Ganger said.
The committee discussed combining the teams at its most recent meeting. Ganger said the committee discussed the lack of participation at some of the schools was also a large factor in considering combining the teams.
“Some schools don’t have enough kids. Some do, but some don’t,” Ganger said. “Some principals are actually walking the halls asking kids to play and that can be a dangerous thing if a kid doesn’t want to play but feels obligated.”
Teams at schools such as Lamar, which only had five softball players last season, and South Central, which only had 11, have already combined to combat the lack of participation at schools.
Ganger also said well 50% of the games played in Washington County were run-ruled games, meaning one team was so far ahead the game ends early. For Class AA baseball, 59% of the games were decided by run rule and 55% for Class AA softball.
“The (athletic directors) also produced the amount of run rules, and it was well over 50%,” Ganger said. “That means one team’s killing another team and it ends before seven innings or five innings.”
Other school board members were concerned about the opportunity for student participation.
“Every time we merge one of these teams into two across our 10 elementary schools, we’ve lost a bunch of slots for these kids to play in,” School board member Phillip McLain said. “That breaks my heart for some of these little kids that want to play and aren’t great players, but they want to participate. Those are the kids that I root for.”
The athletic directors in the county also reported to the athletics committee that multiple schools throughout the region have already combined their teams, which has reduced the number of teams the schools can play.
School board member Chad Fleenor requested that the board hear from Washington County’s coaches before a decision is made.
“I’d like to hear their concerns,” Fleenor said. “We have a lot of first year coaches, so I don’t know if they’ll have a lot to share.”
The athletics committee will meet on Monday, April 6, to continue the discussion. That meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education’s central office at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.