Athletics Discussion Dominates School Board Meeting

Daniel Prince

Issues range from middle schoolers playing for the high school to whether to field a golf team

At the Union County School Board meeting Monday night, Athletic Director Scott Sherbert updated the members on winter and spring sports. He said due to COVID and the weather, the high school basketball teams must play nine games in three weeks, meaning they have three games scheduled each week until the playoffs. He said tryouts for spring sports will begin next week. According to interest numbers submitted by the coaches, he said they look sufficient to be able to field teams in all sports at the high school, as well as baseball and softball teams at the middle school level.

The report sparked a discussion that lasted more than 30 minutes. Board member Mike Cohen asked about the policy on middle school athletes playing on squads at the high school level. Sherbert said most of the spring sports have middle school participants, as baseball and softball are the only sports offered at the middle school. After meeting with the athletic directors and principals at the schools, they all agreed that if a middle school player is coming up to play on the JV level, they have to be playing and not just sitting on the bench.

Another question came up about the boys golf team. Sherbert said the program is being phased out due to lack of interest and not having a golf course in Union at which to practice. He noted the decision was made three years ago to end the program, and they grandfathered in the three remaining participants. The final member of the team is a senior this year, and after that the program would end. Dr. Jane Wilkes said she had heard that several more may be interested and wondered if another interest meeting could be set up to gauge if there was enough interest there to reform the golf team. Sherbert said he was aware that a couple of those that had been interested were going out for other sports, instead, and he talked to the parents of another couple of students and explained the decision that had previously been made, and he said they were understanding. He said it is extremely difficult to have a golf team without an in-county course. They have been using Heddle’s Hideaway in Pacolet since Riverchase closed a few years back. He also said it is too late in the year at this point to get a team together, as even if they have an interest meeting and enough are actually interested, there is no time to put together a schedule and submit it to the High School League before the deadline.

Sherbert said softball interest numbers are down, particularly for JV, but there still should be enough to field a team. He did note a lot of the JV softball players may have to come from the middle schools, but there would still be enough there to field teams. Someone asked if it might be better to focus on the middle school baseball and softball programs and not have JV if there aren’t enough high school players to field a team. Sherbert said he thinks the JV program is vital to the varsity. He said even if numbers are low and some middle school players are brought up, there are still enough players to have a middle school team, as well. Mike Massey asked Sherbert to help keep an eye on those students moving up to JV level so that they don’t lose eligibility to go back and play at the middle school level if needed. He said the middle schools used to end their schedules at spring break, which then allowed middle school players to be brought up to JV or even varsity level in some instances to help out.

Doc Lipsey questioned whether coaches were actively recruiting middle schoolers and promising them spots on JV teams. Sherbert said he can’t speak for them, but all he knows is that they have been told is that they can try out. Lipsey said he had gotten calls from a couple of parents who said that their student was told that if they weren’t playing JV in 7th grade, they wouldn’t be allowed to go out for varsity in the 9th. Sherbert said he thought the board was beginning to get into matters that didn’t need to be discussed in open session in dealing with individual complaints like that.

Superintendent Joey Haney noted that much more will be known about the sports programs after tryouts next week. He said some may show up that didn’t indicate an interest earlier, while others who did show interest may not show up, may not have a physical, or there may be other reasons.

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