District 11’s play-up policy for sports to be reviewed

Anoka-Hennepin School Board members’ game plan has every athlete experiencing the thrill of victory and avoiding the agony of defeat.

That means winning not only on the playing field, but winning valuable life lessons along the way.

Toward that end, at its June 10 work session, board members directed Jeff McGonigal, associate superintendent of high schools, to team up with the district’s high school principals and activities directors to review the existing play-up policy.

That policy concerns participation of seventh- and eighth-grade students in high school athletics and states that “with few exceptions high school athletic teams should be made up of high school students.”

There have been cases however, when coaches, players and parents have longed to include talented seventh- or eighth-grade athletes on high school varsity teams to enhance teams’ competitive stature.

While the current policy (last revised March 24, 2008) is designed to protect the viability of sports teams, a “tweakage” of the policy or a definition of “gifted athlete” could mean Anoka-Hennepin high school teams might compete at a higher level.

During the June 10 work session, some board members expressed support for some flexibility in the policy, but others voiced their fears that high school athletes’ experience may need to be sacrificed in order to gain a higher level of competition.

“Most school districts have restrictions on their play-up policy – identify athlete as verifiably gifted, or verify that the athlete’s participation is likely to allow the team to compete at a higher level,” School Board Chairman Tom Heidemann said.

High school principals and activities directors (ADs) were in the room to hear board members comments.

In his review, McGonigal was directed to look at the Alexandria play-up policy, talk about various scenarios and episodes, and develop criteria to define a gifted athlete.

Then, McGonigal is to bring back to the board a recommendation to either tweak the district’s existing play-up policy or to define gifted athlete.

That recommendation is expected to be on the agenda for the regularly scheduled Aug. 26 school board meeting.

To read the district’s current play-up policy, visit www.anoka.k12.mn.us.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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