The impact of funding athletic programs in schools has become increasingly difficult and has hit home for schools in Westmoreland County.
Two months ago, student athletes at Montross Middle School were benched from traveling to compete against other schools. Then during the same period students at Colonial Beach had their program suspended due to the lack of bus drivers.
Since that time, representatives from the schools have each put in work to provide students an outlet for recreation.
By the attendance numbers, students at Montross Middle School look to have responded well to budget cutbacks on their sports this year. This year Montross Middle School was forced to keep their students in town rather than travel to play other schools.
As a result, the staff at Montross Middle School proposed a plan to offer students an opportunity to join an intramural program with such sports and activities as cheerleading, step, volleyball, boys and girls basketball, kickball and soccer.
A total of 36.5 percent of the (130 students out of the possible 356) total students at the middle school have participated in the program. The total does not include the students playing JV Volleyball and Football.
P.E. Teachers Brian Satterwhite and Cyndie Smith, who facilitate the program, said they believe the students are enjoying it.
“I think the students have been very receptive to it. The program offers more opportunities to get out here and do something they are interested in,” Satterwhite said. “That’s what they key has been.”
Satterwhite said in addition to large number of students participating, they are also developing the skills they need before joining an organized group like a high school JV or varsity team.
“They need to get their exercise and it’s good for their fitness,” Smith said. “If we didn’t have any type of sports for the kids their skill level would drop and they wouldn’t be prepared to prepare JV sports. We just hope by implementing this program it keeps them doing something positive after school.”
One area that students are developing skills is in cheerleading with home economics teacher Leigh-Ann Crim. Before arriving in Westmoreland County, she was a competitive gymnast in Pennsylvania.
In the past four years, cheerleaders shifted away from competition and resorted to sideline cheering.
With Washington & Lee moving to competition cheer this year, the students at Montross Middle School realized for themselves the need to learn effective tumbling techniques.
“The older girls were a little apprehensive at first because the cheerleaders weren’t doing it at the high school,” Crim said. “But once they saw it they really started to get into it and we’ve gained interest.”
Students are offered transportation following after-school activities and will have an opportunity to play in other activities in the winter and spring.
Fortunately for athletic director Mike Patierno, of Colonial Beach, he only had to field one middle school sports team, which is the award-winning girls basketball team this fall season. But the problem initially stemmed from the lack of bus drivers to transport the girls in addition to the other four sports teams including varsity and JV football and volleyball teams.
But the young ladies found out they would return to the hardwood two weeks ago, when tryouts began and a new coach was selected to lead the Lady Drifters.
“We’re very excited about the fact that we have a coach and our transportation situation has improved,” Patierno said. He added that he expects to have at least eight to 10 games scheduled for the girls.