Middle School sports, often forgotten next to its High School counter-parts, play an important role in the lives of our 10-14 year old students.
Across the country, some schools and school systems have tried to phase out Middle School sports, citing budget restraints and declaring that “younger students” should be more involved in developmental – rather than competitive – programs.
Thankfully, Athletic Director, Stephen Traister, and the powers that be in our school system, feel differently. The Mission Statement of the Dedham Athletic Department sums it up perfectly. “These programs offer interscholastic, athletic competition within the academic year. Student athletes are offered an opportunity to try out and participate in a variety of sports. The Principal, Athletic Director, and Coaches, are committed to provide, a fun environment for healthy competition – teaching students the fundamentals of each sport and helping them develop, not only their athletic skills, but valuable lifelong lessons that will take them far beyond the court, the field or the track.”
Recently, we had the opportunity to follow the Dedham Middle School boys and girls Basketball Teams. Tryouts were held in November, and teams (made up mostly of 8th graders) were chosen by the beginning of December.
The “Coaches” in Middle School sports are the teachers. Paid a stipend, we saw these men and women dedicate hours upon hours of their own time each week, for the past three months, to our children! Not only in basketball, but various DMS teachers and aides, helped coach countless boys and girls in Soccer, Field Hockey, Cross Country, Track and Softball.
The commitment for the student athletes is to be commended as well. The Basketball season consisted of a twelve game schedule (with two games per week) along with after-school practices in the gym. Students must not only be competitive in their sport, but maintain good, passing grades to be on the team.
We followed bus trips to neighboring Towns like Natick, Framingham, Weston, Wellesley, and Bellingham, and sat in the stands at DMS. This season saw Music/Chorus teacher Jeff Taylor lead the boys team, while Julianne Warren (at times with the help of her Dad – Social Studies teacher Mike Warren) head up the girls team.
Both teams had a good season, winning a few and losing a few, and the athletes learned the value of self-discipline, respect and team-work. Some of these student athletes rose to the challenge and are looking forward to continue playing their sport next year at the high school.
We saw Coaches Julianne Warren and Jeff Taylor (along with fellow teacher /coaches Connor Fitzgerald, Arielle Sutton, Sarah Tapply, Lisa LeClair, and Frank Barbuto) step up and be role models for these youngsters. A Coach is counted on to be an “educator” both in and outside of the classroom, and these DMS coaches displayed the patience, knowledge and support needed throughout the season to make us proud.
Story and Photos by: Joe Kilroy