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Proposal to FHSAA Wants to Block Middle School Athletes from Varsity Sports

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) brought forth a proposal to its board of directors that would prohibit middle school athletes from competing on high school teams.

The proposal, submitted by Merritt Island athletic director Jeff McLean, seeks to bar that practice beginning at the start of the 2023 school year, according to a report from News4Jax.com. Should middle school student-athletes compete on high school teams, it should be only on the sub-varsity levels, the proposal states.

fhsaa“High Schools are defined as being grades 9-12. By allowing students under grade 9 to compete in sub-varsity allows smaller schools the opportunity to help field those teams,” McLean’s action item reads. “We classify schools for state series based on enrollment in graded 9-12, but schools with 7th and 8th graders have the advantage of having up to 40-50% more students to field teams compared to schools with only 9-12 in the same classification.”

According to News4Jax.com, most public high schools in the state operate under the traditional ninth through 12th-grade programs, but three in the area do combine middle schools. The article went on to add that private schools routinely use middle school athletes on varsity rosters.

Should the proposal be accepted, the shake-up could be the difference between fielding a team or disbanding the programs for smaller schools.

“It keeps some of our teams afloat,” said St. Johns Country Day athletic director Traci Livingston, according to News4Jax.com. “Schools of our size, we don’t have thousands of kids to choose from. It would put a big damper on our programs. We’d really have to look at some of our teams and see what would happen [with a change]. I don’t understand the reasoning. I really hope it doesn’t pass.”

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Others believe the decision should be left up to the parents of the student-athletes.

“I think the decision should lie with families, with parents, they should be able to make that choice if they want their kids to play at the varsity level, not the state,” University Christian athletic director Justin Sirmon said to News4Jax.com. “A lot of schools and folks I’ve talked to don’t have a big pool [of athletes] to pull from. Playing middle schoolers, it’s not really a competitive advantage, you’ve got to have certain numbers [to field a team].”

To read the full article from News4Jax.com about the possible rule changes in the FHSAA, click here