Sneaker squeaks herald return of middle school sports to Battle Ground Public Schools
Jan. 6, 2022
After a 40-year absence, the sound of sneakers squeaking, basketballs bouncing, and coaches shouting out instructions marked the return of middle school sports to Battle Ground Public Schools this week.
Responding to priorities made clear by parents and community members in district surveys, the Board of Directors laid the groundwork in late 2019 for the return of middle school sports. This commitment, and community support for a replacement four-year Educational Programs and Operations levy this past November, ensured the launch could go forward after a pandemic-caused delay. Sports and extracurricular activities are supported by local levy dollars that pay for equipment and coaches’ wages. Sports and gate fees typically cover officials and transportation to games.
Blake Bowers, a physical education teacher at Tukes Valley Middle and coach of the 7th grade team, said that more than half of their students who registered had never played organized sports before. “That is exactly the point of this opportunity,” he said.
After just three days of practice, Bowers has already seen improvement from his athletes. “They’re understanding the language and the drills,” he said. “They’re getting faster and more efficient, which is really exciting to see.”
As Battle Ground begins to phase in middle school sports, teams will play three weeks of intramural scrimmages, followed by two weeks of games against other middle schools in the district.
Heather Cushing, an 8th grade math and science teacher at Laurin who is coaching one of the Lions’ teams, said the energy level has been high among players, and that enthusiasm seems to be spreading outside of the gym.
“I have noticed that students are excited,” Cushing said. “Even though the boys are on the court right now, girls in my classes are already buzzing about their upcoming season.” Girls basketball will tip off on Feb. 7.
Kasen Campbell, an eighth grade basketball player at Laurin, called the experience “very good. When we work together to accomplish goals is my favorite part.”
Challin Snider, a Laurin 7th grader, said his first few practices were amazing. “I’m excited to learn more.”
“Middle school sports are an important part of school culture,” said Damen Hermens, assistant principal at Tukes Valley Middle School. “They create excitement and unity among students.”
At Laurin, ASB students have been busy brainstorming ways to hype games and build support for their teams. Laurin Principal Travis Drake said some players seemed surprised by the level of support. “I think it hit them that they are representing the school,” he said.
School sports build connections within buildings and the surrounding community, but they also help students remain engaged at an academic level according to Tom Adams, Director of Student Services for the district “Research shows that students who participate in activities and athletics tend to do better in school,” he said.
In the spring, Battle Ground’s six middle schools will introduce cross country (6-8 grade) and soccer (7-8 grade). In future years the district plans to add volleyball and some track and field events, and is exploring adding wrestling, football, golf, and Unified Sports.Parents and students can visit the district’s Middle School Sports page for more information and links to register through FamilyID. A completed physical is required before students can participate in organized sports.
Boys Basketball: Jan. 3
Girls Basketball: Feb. 7
Cross Country: March 14
Boys Soccer: March 14
Cross Country: April 25
Girls Soccer: April 25
Students who participate in sports must have a sports physical before practices begin (physical clearance is good for 24 months). You will upload the completed sports physical form into Family ID when registration opens on Dec. 1. Boys basketball participants should plan now to have your sports physical completed by Jan. 3.