Santa Rosa County is the only county of the three counties where middle school sports teams are not widely used.
The district began receiving questions from local residents about why that was the case and what they could do to provide middle school students with the potential to move forward.
Santa Rosa County School District school spokesperson and family and community outreach officer Tonya Shepherd said in a statement to The News Journal that the district would like to see what potential exists in middle school sports. He said he had begun taking steps to confirm that, but added that he had no concrete plans.
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“Santa Rosa District Schools has a rich tradition of community collaboration, and this is true for the local community youth sports association. We have done so,” Shepard said in a statement, adding that the district will include community stakeholders in potential discussions going forward.
Santa Rosa County Considers Middle School Sports Potential
Stephanie Yelton, the University of West Florida women’s basketball coach, lives in Santa Rosa County and is one of the people lobbying the district to offer track and field for middle school students.
“We miss opportunities for children to get involved in something special and get involved in something related to school to build the school spirit and community spirit,” Yelton said. “But as some young people get older and graduate from high school, we also need to build stronger communities.”
Yelton has his kids enrolled in the Pensacola Mighty Titans, a Pensacola-based basketball program that offers camps, skills development, recreational leagues, and more, but Escambia County’s middle school season begins in the fall, so Santa Rosa is out of town. I said I would leave for a while. County kids without teams.
David Clark, a parent of a student at Gulf Breeze Middle School, said he went to the district last year to find out why the county doesn’t have a program. He said he was told that the additional funds would be spent on educational opportunities rather than sports because the budget is so limited.
Looking at the Santa Rosa School District’s 2023 budget, about $108,000 is allocated for school sports quotas.
The Escambia County school district introduced volleyball in 2016, and the sport’s starting costs totaled about $40,000, according to former superintendent Malcolm Thomas.
Talking about the importance of investing in sports, Clark said, “We want our children to have the opportunity to have a well-rounded middle school experience as opposed to what is currently being offered. .”
A Look Back at Attempts to Win Middle School Sports in Santa Rosa County
In 2015, Santa Rosa County resident Chris Long initiated an online petition calling on the Santa Rosa County Board of Education to implement middle school sports in the 2016-17 school year, but ultimately did not materialize.
Long created an online petition to remind the school board and former superintendent Tim Wirosdick that a significant number of parents in the county are supporting middle school sports, helping students to improve their academic and mentioned social benefits. He collected his 940 signatures, but after speaking with Wyrosdick learned that the school district was in financial trouble to pursue middle school track and field.
Benny Washington, head coach of the Mighty Titans program, said Santa Rosa County may do well academically, but there’s always room for improvement.
“One[thing to improve]is the kids’ extra-curricular activities. That extra-curricular activity could be music or sports or whatever,” Washington said. “The reason we say sports is because a lot of kids say she leaves school at 1 or 2. Parents say she might not be home until 5 or 6.
Washington stressed that these extracurricular programs help keep children safe and out of trouble, adding that they teach children core values such as sportsmanship, teamwork, accountability and responsibility. I got
Washington also credits sports and coaching for helping shape his life.
“I was one of six children who didn’t have a father in the family. He kept me out of trouble by letting me go to my sport of choice, basketball,” Washington said.
As Santa Rosa’s population continues to grow and attract new residents from outside of Florida, Clark said demographic shifts are changing expectations for middle school sports, and that other parts of the country will also see more middle school students. He said he might come to expect sports.
“We really think we can figure it out and make it cost-effective and make it happen,” Yelton said.