High School Sports

Kentucky House to consider regulation of middle school athletics

Kentucky has had an organization for decades that oversees high school sports, but the regulation of middle school athletics is largely left to individual schools or districts.

However, the House Education Committee on Tuesday approved a resolution introduced by a Nicholasville Democrat that would create a task force to study oversight of middle school athletics in the state. The resolution now goes to the full House for a vote.

Under House Concurrent Resolution 155, introduced by Rep. Bob Damron, the task force would study whether best practices should be established for specific middle school sports under the auspices of non-profit organizations.

Other areas of study would be the health and safety of student athletes, the training and certification of coaches, and setting regulations for regular and post-season play.

"Superintendents and the (Kentucky) Middle School Football Association and others felt like middle schools need to have their own athletics group," Damron said in an interview. "This resolution is a way of trying to bring all the parties to the table to develop a recommendation."

Currently, the non-profit Kentucky Middle School Football Association and an association for middle school wrestling teams provide rules, establish playoff systems, and otherwise regulate those two sports, according to Damron's resolution.

Greg Mitchell, a Lexington attorney who volunteers to coach Catholic middle school students in Lexington, is president of the Kentucky Middle School Football Association.

He said 157 middle schools in Kentucky belong to the organization. The organization holds a state tournament, and student-athletes get the chance to compete in a national championship.

Many middle school coaches across Kentucky are not teachers and have jobs outside the school system, Mitchell said.

''We are trying to make sure that everybody is playing with a common set of principles ... that we are all playing safe," he said.

Under Damron's resolution, the task force would include representatives of the football and wrestling associations, chairmen of legislative committees, a Kentucky High School Athletic Association representative, principals, a parent, an athletic trainer and a superintendent.

The task force would report its findings and make recommendations to the General Assembly for possible legislation no later than Dec. 7, 2012, the resolution said.

Julian Tackett, commissioner of the KHSAA, said several studies have been conducted on Kentucky middle school athletics during the past 25 years on issues ranging from governance to health and safety.

Oversight, financial transparency for event promoters and coaching qualifications "are very important to the schools of this state," Tackett said.

Fayette County Public Schools does not participate in the Kentucky Middle School Football Association because the district sets its own regulations for middle school athletics, spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said.