Carroll middle schools to cut play day contests

January 24, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Northwest Middle School Principal Bronson Jones has a warm spot in his heart for the tradition of middle school play days, but it's time for a change, he says.

The change will occur next school year when schools will have only one play day in May -- for track and field. The October and March play days for other sports will be abandoned.

The May track and field play day will survive because it draws a large number of students, said Bruce Cowan, supervisor of physical education for Carroll County schools.

The events are a kind of countywide athletic meet in which each of the seven middle schools sends a small team. The schools take turns being host for the events, which occur during the school day.

"The play days were good," Mr. Cowan said. "But we were spending a lot of time and energy so that 15 to 20 boys and 15 to 20 girls [from each middle school] could participate in a play day," when the schools need to focus more attention on instilling physical fitness in a broad range of students.

"Most of our kids, once they get out of school, don't do anything at all," he said.

Play days and Mr. Jones started together, in a sense. He began teaching physical education in 1968, just after the junior high schools were converted to middle schools.

A casualty of the conversion was interschool competitive sports.

RTC "The play days filled a void in that the highly skilled kids had a chance to compete against kids from other schools," Mr. Jones said.

Next year, students will still be able to compete at their schools on intramural teams, either during or after school.

Mr. Jones expects to have the sports after school, rather than take up time in the school day.

The difference is that students won't compete against children from other schools. But most of the same students who participated in play days already are on recreation leagues around the county, Mr. Cowan said.

Mr. Jones said that when play days started, there was no broad offering of recreational sports leagues for children.

"The recreation programs grew rapidly," he said. "It was almost like we were duplicating efforts.

"We were going to play days with just a small fraction of the kids in school. We just sort of felt at this point we could benefit more kids."

Mr. Jones said some plans at Northwest Middle School are to teach children tennis and to have "clinics" to improve skills in sports such as basketball.

By dropping the play days, Mr. Cowan and Mr. Jones said, school physical education instructors will have more flexibility in when they introduce certain sports.

For example, teachers used to be locked into soccer, field hockey and flag football the first quarter of each year, so the school could develop teams for those sports in the October play days.

The same applies for March, when schools had to have girls' volleyball teams and boys' wrestling teams for those events.

On March 15 and 16, Northwest Middle School will be the host for the last countywide volleyball and wrestling play day.

In May, East Middle School will have the track and field play day, the annual event that will survive.

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