Starting a New Sport Provides Options for More Students
By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on March 09, 2021
Providing opportunities to involve additional students in education- based athletics should be a goal of athletic administrators. It isn’t always simple, however. Funding, overused or crowded venues, difficulty in finding coaches, Title IX compliance and a number of other hurdles may stand in the way. However, the concept of providing increased opportunities should not be in doubt.
Another important point beyond providing opportunities is that administrators also want to meet the needs of their students, and this would involve offering sports that are of interest. A survey can be used to determine the interest of students, or it might happen by some students stopping by the athletic director’s office and asking if a new sport can be started. Either way, it is essential to listen and determine the level of interest.
Beyond hearing from students, the following are a few additional aspects that should be considered.
- Ascertain if the expressed interest by the select group of students in starting a new sport represents a one time or limited prospect for the two to three years that they are in school. The administrator should determine if there is also potential interest in the middle school and within the community. Once the young people who lobby for a new sport graduate, there would need to be a continuing flow of athletes to keep the ball rolling. Is the sport sustainable?
- Administrators should analyze how they will pay for an addition to the program? Budgets may be stretched to the limit in many districts around the country and there is no money for new or additional offerings. In these situations, athletic administrators may have to resort to fund-raising to simply keep the program operating. Therefore, would you have to cut back on what may already be bare-bone funding for existing teams in order to introduce a new one? While adding a sport may meet the interest and needs of some students, it may not be prudent to reduce the support for the others. Can department-wide or booster club fund-raising close the gap? Before a decision is made to add a new opportunity, the funding question must be answered.
- Is there available land to create additional outdoor facilities to accommodate a new sport? Some schools have landlocked campuses in which there is no existing, vacant land to create new outdoor facilities. Also, indoor venues may have been maxed out for years and building new ones is out-of-reach financially. Even if money is available, building a new facility might also necessitate taking away one of the athletic fields for construction of this additional indoor venue. All of this may mean that community facilities have to be used to support new teams and an expanded program. In addition, how do you treat all sports fairly or do you simply relegate the new sport to an off-campus venue?
- Will Title IX compliance be affected by adding an additional male sport? Substantial proportionality is one of the three-prongs used with respect to Title IX compliance. This aspect measures whether participation opportunities are offered with respect to the proportion of the enrollment of the under-represented gender, which historically has been females. It is important, however, to also note that limited funding, subpar facilities or the lack of coaching candidates cannot be used as an excuse for excluding the addition of a sport for girls. These hurdles must be overcome!
- Is the potential sport to be added sponsored or sanctioned by the state athletic or activities association? Those sports that do come under the association’s banner would be eligible for state playoffs and being sanctioned may be a necessary ingredient for approval by the school board.
- Investigate if there are other schools in the area that offer this new sport in order to put together a reasonable schedule. If the team has to travel long distances for games, this is not a good option. Long, extensive bus trips may necessitate getting athletes out of class early or perhaps for an entire day. In terms of academic attainment, missing class is never a good idea and, after all, the ultimate goal for all students should be to gain an education.
- Is it possible to find a coach for a new, emerging sport? A pool of possible coaching candidates may not exist in the area. In all likelihood, there won’t be any recent graduates with playing experience or community members with possible exposure to the sport. If the school is located near a college or university, the odds of filling these positions may be slightly better. But it may be difficult to impossible to find a coach and, without one, fielding a team will not happen. Finding a coach is that critical.
Assuming that these aspects have been considered, and they don’t produce an impediment to moving forward, the following should serve as a road map to start a new sport.
- Prepare a proposal to add the new sport and get it approved by the school board with the principal’s and superintendent’s blessing.
- Post, interview and hire an individual to serve as the head coach. Take input from this person and start to complete the rest of the staff.
- Contact neighboring schools to put together an initial schedule.
- Consult with the head coach and order uniforms and equipment.
- Schedule a meeting of interested candidates for the team with the new coach.
- Provide students with the pertinent forms and steps that have to be completed in order to try out for the team. Make sure that you include the day and time of the first practice session.
Adding a new sport provides great opportunities for a school’s students. The initial tasks can be challenging, and the process will take some time and effort, but it will go a long way toward meeting the needs of the students.