Historically, the popular opinion among educators has held that 7th and 8th grade is early enough for schools to provide competitive athletics, early enough to put youth into the competitive sports arena, early enough to pit one school against another in sports.
Today, however, many educators and parents point out that such protective philosophies and policies were adopted about the same time “play days” were considered to be the maximum exertion females should experience in school sports. Some administrators and coaches argue that both our severe limits on contest limits at the junior high/middle school level, and our refusal to serve 6th-graders, are as out of date and inappropriate as play days for females.
Today, in more than three of four school districts with MHSAA member schools, 6th-graders go to school in the same building with 7th- and 8th-graders. But MHSAA rules don’t allow 6th-graders to participate with and against 7th- and 8th-graders. In fact, the MHSAA Constitution doesn’t even acknowledge that 6th-graders exist.
Today, in many places, 6th-graders have aged-out of non-school, community sports, but they are not permitted to play on MHSAA junior high/middle school teams.
Last school year, 50 different school districts requested this rule be waived for them, and the MHSAA Executive Committee approved 46 of 50 waivers, allowing 6th-graders to compete on 7th- and 8th-grade teams. During 2011-12, 37 of 40 requests for waiver were approved, in all cases for small junior high/middle schools.
Many school districts choose not to join the MHSAA at the junior high/middle school level because of this issue – because 6th-graders can’t play with 7th- and 8th-graders. Just as many school districts choose not to join because MHSAA contest limitations are too restrictive at the junior high/middle school level.