There will not be any ninth grade sports teams at Dawson County High School next school year.
Due to budget cuts and lack of participation the school has decided to suspend all ninth grade activities.
However, the cuts do not mean that upcoming ninth graders will not be able to participate in athletics, it just means that they will have to earn a position at either the junior varsity or varsity level.
“All our coaches were in favor of this action and it was a mutual decision,” said Grady Turner, athletic director at the high school.
Over the past few years, ninth grade teams have had to cancel games because of lack of players for certain sports.
“Budget was also a concern,” Turner said. “It really hasn’t been a viable program during the last few years. It was kind of easy to cut because it didn’t affect too many athletes.”
“We are one of the few sports that still has numbers to field a ninth grade team, but due to our limited coaching situation we aren’t able to fill a full ninth grade schedule,” said Dawson County High School Head Football Coach Jeff Lee.
Lee has only four varsity coaches, including himself, that are employees of the school system. With the few number of coaches, it is one of the smallest coaching staffs in this area.
“We will play our ninth graders on junior varsity and try and get a ninth grade only game or two scheduled, but it will be tough,” Lee said.
Over the last several years, schools around the area are experiencing the same situation. Because athletes are being geared toward being specialists, only participating in one sport year round, other sports have suffered.
Days of sharing athletes in bigger schools are becoming a thing of the past. The idea is also beginning to trickle down to smaller schools like Dawson County.
Scheduling is also difficult.
Many schools in the area don’t field a ninth grade team in many sports. Without traveling a long distance, which is a strain on most budgets, it is not feasible to play games.
The question arises about sports that do have enough players at Dawson County High School, such as baseball. At the moment, all rising ninth graders will have to earn spots on the junior varsity (or varsity) or be cut.
“This is not something we want to continue,” Turner said. “We will consider at a later date on whether we will implement the ninth programs again. Right now I feel we are just not big enough to sustain those teams at the present time.
Hopefully, the economy will get better and we will be able to implement those programs back at a later date.”