Marshall, Texas (KMSS) — According to Marshall Independent School District Athletic Director, Clint Harper, Marshall ISD will joining Texarkana and Sulphur Springs in dropping seventh grade football starting to being during the 2014-2015 season.
The choice to cancel the sport competitively for seventh grade was approved at Monday night's meeting of the Marshall ISD Board of Trustees
KMSS spoke with Coach Harper who says this decision was based on wanting seventh graders to focus on the fundamentals and to give them time to mature mentally and physically.
"We are going back to the premise I was brought up on in Marshall back in the 1980's and 90's," said Harper. "We didn't have seventh grade football back then and we need to go back and focus the fundamentals of the game to limit injuries and to establish quality football players. The most success we have had as a program is when seventh grade football was not established."
Texarkana ISD has already done away with seventh grade football and Harper says they have seen significant improvement in their athletes.
"Some young men have never even put on a pair of pads or a helmet until seventh grade," Harper explained. "We need to improve the quality of the athletes instead of rushing them to play. When you're in seventh grade, you only have two weeks to prepare for your first game and that is hard on the kids. That can also lead to safety issues."
Harper also says the athletic budget also came into play when making this decision.
"One of the largest budgets in the athletic program is dished out for seventh grade football," Harper said. "There are 120 young men playing and you have to provide equipment, food ant travel for all of them. Seventh grad plays on Tuesday nights and when you are having to travel to Greenville to play, the kids become exhausted and have to be prepared to perform in the classroom on Wednesday morning."
Harper explained to KMSS this decision did not come lightly and much research was done before the choice was made.
"I didn't rush into decision," said Harper. "I spoke with the coach at Texas High and they have been doing this as well as Sulphur Springs, although they do things a little differently. They play intramural seventh grade football and basically scrimmage against each other in a very controlled environment to fine tune their skills."
Harper said this may be a trend you see start taking off across the state and their decision to stop seventh grade play should not affect the other districts.
"This may be a trend you start seeing across the state," said Harper. "There are already three out of the eight teams in our new district, alone, that are doing this. Longview ISD has several middle schools so they can take the place in the schedule of the three who aren't participating."
Besides Sulphur Springs and Texarkana, the following schools are set to enter into the new 15-5A district beginning with the 2014 school year in August:
- Mount Pleasant
The following press release was sent out, Tuesday, confirming the choice and an explanation as to why they made the decision:
After consideration of a proposal presented in January by Athletic Director Clint Harper, Marshall ISD Board of Trustees members approved the cancellation of the seventh-grade contact football program at Marshall Junior High School during Monday’s regular February meeting.
The change goes into effect for the 2014-2015 school year.
Citing several factors -- including player safety, skills development and overall budget -- Harper outlined the proposal during the January board meeting. Prior to the Board’s final vote on the proposal on Monday, Harper gave a detailed plan on the communication of the issue with parents and student-athletes who will be entering seventh-grade athletics next fall.
“I will be visiting both our middle school campuses (Price T. Young and Sam Houston) in May to discuss the athletic program with our sixth-grade student-athletes,” Harper said Monday. “We will also have a parent meeting in late May to go over the specifics of the seventh-grade athletic program and to discuss exactly what their child can expect as a seventh-grade student-athlete.”
The only sport to be affected by this change is football. During the fall, student-athletes will be taught expectations as a member of the Maverick football program, and will be evaluated by coaches with their skill level. Coaches will divide players into teams that will play regular non-contact football, or ''flag football,'' during their athletic period to further evaluate and develop skills, Harper said.
Marshall will be the third program in the current District 14-4A alignment to drop seventh-grade football, joining Texas High and Sulphur Springs.
Harper stressed that the change will not affect other competitive seventh-grade sports such as basketball and track, and that contact football will begin once the player moves to the eighth grade.