Friday, September 24, 2010

(Good) Sports in Middle School

My children do not play team sports.  No. 1 is extremely agile and athletic but does not participate in team sports due to a different range of extracurricular interests.  No. 2 (Special Ed) cannot cross midline, which means No. 2 cannot throw, catch, or kick a ball with much success, even simple acts of running or skipping can be challenging and frustrating.  Since sports do not weigh heavily in our middle school selection process, I decided to cover it as a separate topic.

All middle schools offer seven Division AAA team sports during the year: track (since 1925), soccer (since 1956), boys’ baseball (since 1957), boys’ basketball (since 1957), girls’ volleyball (since 1970), girls’ softball (since 1974), and girls’ basketball (since 1975).  For some families, a middle school with a winning sports team might be their child’s ticket to the NBA or Olympic beach volleyball.  If you are sports minded, then check out the middle school sports information, schedules, and photos of winning teams (2004-2010) at  The complete list of annual middle school champions by year (1925 to present) can be found at

Children benefit from team sports.  Judging by the size of the teams in each photo, it would appear that only a minority of students at each school site actually participates in this extracurricular activity.  Even though my children do not play sports and even though a minority of students overall are served, I would never suggest that SFUSD eliminate sports programs.  Never, never, ever!  The recently released Urban Collaborative Report on Special Ed. Services in SFUSD noted that many school district administrators think that the money which is directed to Special Ed. students (11% of the student population) is an “encroachment" on funding that might be better spent on "more deserving or nondisabled students."  This was a sad and sobering pronouncement.  Adults need to be good sports and to treat everyone fairly.  After all, it's what we would expect of our children on the playing field.  Play Ball!



  1. As the parent of a 6th grader, my major concern RE: MS sports is that the SFUSD MSs sponsor only 1 team per sport (not an A and B team) so it's nearly impossible for 6th graders to make the teams in the larger MSs. For those kids who make the teams, it sounds great (on-site practices, organized games, etc)

  2. Thanks for this, Donna. And also for your comments about the recent special ed audit--very important.

    Team availability depends a lot on the specific sport and its cachet within that school's culture (example, soccer is HUGE at Lick with its large Latino population, and track, maybe not so much); and also the size of the school. Making a team at large and competitive A.P. Giannini would be harder than at a smaller school like Lick, Roosevelt, or even Aptos.

    Also, some teams are small whereas others are indefinitely large--I think ALL kids who try out make the track team given the number of events and heats, whereas the basketball or volleyball teams are necessarily limited.

    All that said, at my kids' school the coaches seem to make an effort to include kids from all grades on each team. If not, they won't be building a team for the future, right? I know of several sixth graders who made baseball and softball teams this year.

    Other notes--soccer is co-ed in middle school, as is the track team (though the track kids only compete in same-gender events, which are also broken down by weight categories--so the little sixth graders are not usually competing against the huge eighth graders). Only girls have volleyball and softball; only boys have baseball.

    It is a great experience to participate in middle school sports. It builds teamwork across grade levels and offers access to kids who can't afford club sports. Onsite practices are great. For parents, the games and especially the championships in any of these sports are really rocking places to be. Maybe especially citywide track championships held at Kezar because of the huge numbers of participants and team colors. Great spirit. The kids are great.

  3. Also, sports are used as an incentive for academic performance. Many players get their grades up in order to compete.

    FWIW, the new Aptos principal is also the girls' softball coach on his own time (and guitar club teacher too). He's a huge booster of the sports teams and school spirit.

  4. Wait, are we really still making girls do softball instead of baseball? How silly.

  5. Are you sure that soccer is co-ed in all middle schools?

  6. With the amount of homework that my son gets in his honors class at Presidio, it would be impossible for him to spend to or three hours a day on sports. I think this is a sad commentary on the absurd level of stress these kids are subjected to. It is not healthy or age appropriate to force children to spend 10 hours a day doing academics.

    Whether it is extracurricular sports or other ourdoor activities, kids need time just to be kids. It is a different topic (excess homework) but what can I do about this? How can some students participate in team sports if their teachers give them so much homework they don't have time enough in the day?

  7. Don,

    I have heard several people complain about the quantity of homework at Presidio and in 6th grade in particular. Have you spoken directly with the teachers? I don't know if that will help, but it is worth a try. A child should be able to participate in a sport after school without jeopardizing grades. Ironically, if a student doesn't keep up his grades he's are off the team. Does this make any sense?

  8. [September 24, 2010 5:10 PM] wrote: "...only boys have baseball"

    Not so, I've coached middle school baseball at an SFUSD school for five of the last six years, and it is coed. We've had females on our team. It might be that schools that offer both softball and baseball limit those sports to girls and boys respectively, as our school doesn't have softball.

    At our school, there is: baseball (coed), girls and boys basketball, volleyball (girls), and track (coed). The girls get the opportunity to compete in four sports; the boys three.

  9. Isn't soccer coed in theory? It's competitive so most of the girls end up getting cut. It would be great if there were funds available for more teams to give more kids a chance to play for their schools. Of course, soccer, baseball, etc. have other leagues outside school.

  10. "Not so, I've coached middle school baseball at an SFUSD school for five of the last six years, and it is coed."

    Would someone mind saying which school this is? Seems like the bigger schools at least have both kinds of team--boys baseball and girls softball. I haven't heard of schools that don't have both.

    Re baseball vs. softball for girls, some girls prefer/love softball, which has its own skill set (I would defy any guys who may be on this blog to hit a fast-pitch softball thrown by very good high school or college player). It is an issue that is mostly resolved in favor of girls playing softball, although some girls are still agitating to play baseball.

    But I wouldn't say it is "silly" for schools to have softball teams for girls. Most teen-aged girls playing Little League in town are also playing softball. And it is where the college scholarships are happening as well.

    Re: soccer, our school makes an intentional effort to recruit girls. I haven't heard of girls being cut in favor of boys--seems like most teams have a few girls.

    Lesson is that if sports are a draw for your kid in middle school, ask about teams at schools when you tour.

  11. Sports was a big draw for us when looking at Middle Schools. My daughter who is very athletic wanted to and is participating in sports this year as an Aptos 6th grader. She is on the softball team (Ms. Soto is actually the coach, Principal Dent helps out when available) where they lead in their division and recently joined the basketball team. She's also in the honors program, where I agree has tons of homework. But being a part of the sports team is a very important thing to her and motivates her to keep her A grades. It would be an awful thing if sports were removed from middle schools. I think it also brings a great sense of pride and belonging as well as physical fitness.

  12. Donna -- I actually think that having a kid who loves ball sports would propel one to the Catholic schools, not to the public middle schools. The Catholic schools have extensive team sports opportunities, much more than the public middle schools. To my mind, the middle class kids who do well at our public middle schools are fairly smart; not so much into sports that they have to, have to do a sport; and socially quirky enough that they might become isolated at a (mostly smaller) private or Catholic school. To my mind, that's the profile of a middle class kid who will thrive in the large public middle schools in SF.

  13. ^ not a bad description, especially if quirky is a broad category describing a range of personalities that color outside the lines a bit, opinionated, a bit stubborn, interesting .... this describes my kid and many friends.

  14. 1:38 pm -- You are right --I didn't mean "quirky" in a bad way. I meant it in a "probably-not-going-to be-the-first-one-to-get picked-for-the- sorority/fraternity" if there were such a thing during the middle school years.

  15. ^

    I really my kids at this age, and their friends. I hadn't expected to like the middle school years so much. The kids are passionate and funny and in many ways quite open-hearted.

  16. [September 26, 2010 12:40 AM[ writes: "Would someone mind saying which school this is? Seems like the bigger schools at least have both kinds of team--boys baseball and girls softball. I haven't heard of schools that don't have both."

    The following schools have middle school division baseball teams, but do not have softball teams:

    Alice Fong Yu, Lawton, Mann, and Revere.

    I have seen girls on baseball teams of schools having both baseball and softball teams. Claire Lilienthal, Francisco, Marina, and Roosevelt are some examples which come to mind.

  17. 12:02 is it easier for girls to make the Aptos sports teams as 6th graders than it is for boys? My very athletic 6th grade boy (who has years of experience playing competitive sports) failed to make it onto either the Aptos baseball or basketball teams.

  18. I think it is easier for girls because fewer go out for sports. I do know of some 6th grade boys who made those teams at Aptos, but space is limited. I know baseball is more competitive at Aptos and A.P. and less competitive at Lick, where soccer is super-competitive.

    Definitely tell your son to try again next year....and also to join track, where space is not limited at all.

  19. Good overview of SFUSD Middle School sports at:

    Giannini is the powerhouse in baseball, Everett/Lick in soccer, and the Presidio Panthers have won the track championship 7 years in a row (great coach over there).