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Getting Cut From A Sports Team

7. Cutting isn't necessary to ensure strong athletic programs

The goals of school-based athletics are educational: to teach the athletes skills they can use as adults. The goal is not - or at least should not - to provide the community entertainment like college or professional sports. Compromising the educational value of interscholastic athletics in order to emphasize winning is indefensible, especially at the middle school level.

Implementing a no-cut policy is likely to increase the chances that school teams will enjoy success. Keeping late bloomers in the program long enough for them to actually bloom enlarges the talent pool, so ultimately it helps high schools field the best possible varsity teams, sometimes championship teams. I've always been amazed how many kids who end up being the tallest kids in their high school graduating class don't play high school basketball because they were cut from the middle school or high school freshman team and stop playing basketball before they attained their full height.

8. A no-cut policy is especially appropriate for middle schools

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends a no-cut policy at the middle school level as "consistent with the their overall philosophy" and because "middle school interscholastic programs should not attempt to emulate the highly structured interscholastic sports competition offered by high school. NASPE also recommends that intramural programs continued to be offered. A 1992 study shows that, between the two, participation rates of 90% can be achieved.

9. A no-cut policy does not guarantee equal playing time

A rule against cutting should not be confused with an equal playing time rule.

For instance, at the University of Chicago's Laboratory School, the middle school's no cut policy "refers to the opportunity to join a team." It merely guarantees all players who adhere to the coaches' training guidelines a chance to participate in competitions. Whether they become successful is up to them and how hard they are willing to work, and, of course, ultimately, to whether they have athletic ability and the necessary motivation to succeed.

The current high school model which began in 1938- one first-year team, one varsity, one sub-varsity - is simply outdated. It might have made sense when the number of roster spots was roughly equal to the number of those who wanted to play, but makes no sense when the number of those who want to continue playing sports in middle/high school far exceeds the finite number of spots available. Whenever there is excess demand, schools should add additional teams to accommodate that need, even if it means adding two or three additional teams. Some schools have successfully updated their programs to offer a place for all athletes sub varsity, sometimes with as many as three JV teams.

The most skilled players are still likely to get the bulk of the playing time on middle and high school varsities, thus ensuring that schools will still be able to field the most competitive teams. High school football provides a classic example: most programs don't have cuts; as a result, many players see little if any game time, yet the atmosphere is positive.

In addition, teenagers have a pretty good idea of their own ability, or lack of ability. Those who are lesser skilled will usually recognize their lack of ability, sooner or later, and either self-cut or work extra hard to try to compensate for a lack of natural ability. Since one of the main purposes of education is to teach children to be self-reliant and develop good decision-making skills, it should be up to the athletes themselves to decide if it makes sense to continue participating in a sport in which they come to realize they don't have enough ability or dedication to working harder to get playing time. Why make that decision for them?