Sports likely coming to Fairfax Co. middle schools for the first time

Middle school students in Fairfax County, Virginia, are expected to have the chance to participate in some team sports for the first time starting next year.

As part of the proposed fiscal 2024 budget, the county has allocated $600,000 for middle school cross-country and track. It would be the first time the state’s largest school system has offered middle school sports, according to Bill Curran, the county’s director of student activities and athletics.

Superintendent Michelle Reid said in an interview with WTOP that the athletics programs could improve attendance, discipline and academic progress. Since she was hired last spring, Reid said she has noticed inequities in opportunity “for our young people across the county, for participation in different athletic endeavors.”

The decision to offer sports to middle school students should also help students’ mental health, Reid said.

“We’re never going to be able to hire enough mental health support to resolve the mental health needs and concerns of our adolescents,” Reid said.

“What we do know, though, is if we can spend more money upfront on activities, athletics, the arts, (career and technical education) programs, all of the types of things students want to be involved in, we are going to have more mentally-healthy adolescents.”

The school system is planning for a rollout in September for middle school cross country, and has budgeted for an athletic coordinator at each of the county’s 26 middle schools. That person is not going to be the coach, but instead will help with logistics.

Curran said the goal is to have all coaches hired before the school year ends. The county has already started contacting some of its former coaches who are familiar with its athletics programs.

It’s become increasingly challenging to find high school coaches, Curran said, adding that it’s unclear whether the same will be true for the middle school programs.

“Nobody’s getting rich off any coaching supplement anywhere in the country,” Curran said. “There is some compensation available to them, but in the end, [we’re] really looking toward harnessing the spirit of each one of our middle schools to help feed that coaching rank.”

While middle school athletic programs have grown in surrounding jurisdictions, Curran said they previously weren’t offered because Fairfax County “grew so fast, and the youth organizations were there to support the growth of athletic endeavors all the way through, up until that ninth grade year, up until high school.”

It had been discussed from time to time, he said, but previous school boards opted not to dedicate funding for it.

“Now’s the time, now’s the place,” Curran said. “We have the support. We have the (school board) on board, the board of supervisors is supportive. It’s time to move.”

Reid, meanwhile, called track and cross country “some of our most inclusive, no-cut opportunities,” adding it’s one way for the county to be proactive in addressing students’ mental health.

“Spend the money now on healthy opportunities, or (we’ll) have to spend the money later dealing with [the] symptoms [from] students who don’t have opportunity,” Reid said.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up