School sports enjoyed its highest public profile in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This was before competition from televised college and professional sports and proliferation of youth sports programs and myriad entertainment alternatives. But school sports has its greatest reach today. This is the era of inclusion.
This began with the near simultaneous expansion of opportunities for boys in a greater variety of sports and the reintroduction of similar athletic opportunities for girls.
The increased focus on the junior high/middle school level and the new opportunities for 6th-grade students to participate either separately or with and against 7th- and 8th-graders are major developments in this era of inclusion.
This era includes exploration of opportunities for students with an ever-widening understanding of physical, mental and emotional conditions that challenge students’ ability to participate in highly competitive and regulated athletic programs. It includes accommodations for students with documented changes in gender identification.
This era of inclusion includes reexamination of rules that limit students’ access to school sports while understanding that much of the value of school sports is a result of the rules for school sports. We know that if we lower the standards of eligibility and conduct, we tend to lower the value of the program to students, schools and society.
This is really the best time ever for school sports. It’s just a lot harder to operate today than 55 or 60 years ago.