Kentucky High School Athletic Association Commissioner Julian Tackett said the agency’s goal in sanctioning four of the newest sports activities is to provide more students the opportunity to compete for their school.
“If I can give them a choice of an activity where they’re representing their school and finding their own activity on the street, I think we’re better off if we can give them something structured,” Tackett said.
Tackett said the sports are growing in numbers. Bass fishing had 32 schools competing the first year and now have 78. Archery has doubled from 71 schools to 140. Bowling has grown from 76 to 97. Cheerleading has stayed relatively stable with nearly 250 schools competing in the first year and this year.
“Even cheer, which had a pretty strong base before, never had as many squads competing in the old KAPOS (Kentucky Association of Pep Organization Sponsors) competition as there are competing in ours,” Tackett said.
Greenup County High School’s cheerleading team performs its routine at the KHSAA
state competitive cheerleading tournament. Photo courtesy of Greenup County Schools
Greenup County High School cheerleading coach Candy Berry said when the KHSAA sanctioned the sport “it gave it so much more stability and credence as far as the other sports are concerned. I think it just was much more rewarding for the students involved as well as the coaches.”
Greenup County won a state title the past two years. The school has also won 15 national cheerleading titles.
“It’s a big deal now that we can win the same trophy that football and baseball and everybody else does, and as far as KHSAA goes we get the same attention on their website,” Berry said. “We cheer hundreds of ballgames and do so many other activities in the community but when it’s our time to shine, then we like getting the right attention from the right organization. I think KHSAA is that organization.”
Beth Whitfill has been involved in the archery program in the Breckinridge County school district for nearly a decade and has been the head coach at the high school for four years. This is the second year it has been part of the KHSAA’s archery competitions, and the school continues to compete in the National Archery in Schools Program.
“I enjoy the sport. I think it’s great for these kids,” Whitfill said. “I’ve seen some of them socially develop and come around and have something they can call as a sport that they are doing, but otherwise they may not have anything to turn to, just left sitting on the sidelines.”
She said archery teaches the students discipline and patience.
“It’s just a very structured sport. There’s a lot of things you have to remember to do, which, I guess it’s like that with anything, but you have to have a lot of patience with it, too,” Whitfill said. “You’ve got to try to discipline yourself to stay relaxed and focus on one arrow at a time.”
Taylor County High School boys’ bowling coach Ben Hamilton said many students are athletic, but “it’s just what sport can you excel in,” adding that bowling takes a lot of stamina to be competitive.
Bowling was the first of the sports activities added in 2011. Prior to that several schools participated in it as a club activity.
Taylor County won both the boys’ and girls’ state bowling championship this year. Hamilton said other schools have contacted Taylor County for information on getting the program started in their school.
“Bowling continues to grow,” KHSAA’s Tackett said. “We’re going to probably have to completely realign both our tournament and our regions in bowling just because it’s grown so much. It’s a good problem to have and it’s that many more kids walking down the hallway representing the school and therefore having to meet regular standards like conduct and attendance. That can’t be anything but good for our schools.”
Martin County school board member Roger Harless spent about 15 years coaching basketball and baseball.
His district added bass fishing this year and Harless would like to see more sports added, including bowling.
“If you let kids know you believe in them and get those kids to believe in themselves, then you get other people to believe in them, you can go a long way,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s fishing or golf, basketball, football, baseball, whatever.”
Still more sports activities?
Every three years the KHSAA surveys the schools and “any sport or sport activity that has 50 (schools interested), then our board has to consider having a championship,” Tackett said. “The second part of that is it’s not automatic because then you have do some feasibility studies.”
Rifle has already been approved, but since then several junior ROTC programs have lost funding “and that’s really where your interest came from,” Tackett said. “We’re committed to adding a rifle championship … (but it’s) in a little bit of limbo.”
Other sports that have been discussed include dance, lacrosse, field hockey, ultimate Frisbee and trap shooting.
“We do the surveying (to determine how much interest there is) and produce the results,” Tackett said. “We’re promoting the fact that the opportunities are available but it needs to come from our membership if they want it.”