FHSSA Tables Ban on Middle Schoolers Playing Varsity

Brock Fritz Headshot

Middle school students in Florida will continue to be allowed to play varsity sports after the Florida High School Athletic Association tabled a vote on the issue this week.

According to The Gainesville Sun, the FHSAA Board of Directors decided Tuesday to send the proposal, which would ban middle school athletes from playing on varsity teams, back to the Athletic Directory Advisory Committee for further discussion.

“There was some very good discussion today and some very good questions, and fortunately, this is not a life-or death, building-is-not-on-fire issue right now,” FHSAA executive director George Tomyn said, according to News4Jax. “So, were going to continue that right now and we’ll vet it properly throughout all the advisory committees we have in our association.”

FHSAA allows students in sixth through eighth grade to play varsity sports if their middle school is part of the high school. The proposal to prevent that came from Merritt Island athletic director Jeff McLean.

“This was not a knee-jerk reaction I promise, this goes back to 1971 when I was in ninth grade,” McLean said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “Our bylaws say only senior high athletes can compete for state titles, your GPA is only ninth through twelfth as well, public and private schools are in the same situations.

“We don’t have any schools 7-12 in our county except private schools,” McLean said. “But over years I have heard plenty of people in my area ask me why can’t my sixth or seventh grader play varsity sports but our neighbor who attends a different school can.”

Several coaches at small schools, including Oak Hall football coach RJ Fuhr and P.K. Yonge girls soccer coach Rebecca Schackow, told The Sun that middle school students are essential to fit out rosters at the high school level.

“I think we’ve got to find a way in the middle somewhere to look at this problem and not create this problem,” board member Bobby Johns said. “You’re talking about unlevel playing versus not even being able to field teams. That’s a devastating thought if we were to go that direction.”

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