CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Eighth-grade athletes can now try out for all varsity teams at John Jay High School, following the Board of Education’s unanimous vote on July 12 to revise its athletic placement policy.
Previously, per a resolution adopted in 2015, eighth-grade students could only try out for individual varsity sports, such as tennis, wrestling or skiing. The main reason, explained Athletic Director Christian McCarthy, revolved around the middle school students intermingling with junior and senior students.
“I think in our initial step we thought that because of individual sports, the way they are, it’s a little bit separated,” McCarthy said. “It turns out it really is not,” adding that the individual athletes display great camaraderie.
However, McCarthy said, the eighth-grade students have afforded themselves “quite well” in the individual sports. Playing alongside juniors and seniors, he said, has not been an issue.
For McCarthy, the question then became whether the district’s policy provided a level playing field for athletes in team sports, such as baseball, soccer and football.
“I felt that it was not,” McCarthy said. “I really feel it will be important to offer the same opportunity to our team level sports.”
Superintendent Andrew Selesnick said the new policy makes no distinction between team and individual sports.
“All of the sports are treated the same now,” he said.
However, McCarthy said, the number of eighth-grade boys and girls who will actually land roster spots on varsity teams will be about 25 per year.
“So, I do think that number will be quite small,” he said.
McCarthy said Katonah-Lewisboro is in the minority with its policy, as most school districts allow both seventh- and eighth-grade students to audition for all junior varsity and varsity sports.
“We are in the minority, but I’m very comfortable from a maturity level to be exactly where we are,” McCarthy said.
According to the policy, eighth-grade students will only be selected to a varsity roster “in the likelihood that they would play in at least 50 percent” of the team’s games.
Eighth-grade students can continue to try out for all individual or team junior varsity sports.