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By Crystia Basnight

As Nation Ford High School has rapidly grown over the past few years, the sports teams also continue to expand with new players joining each year. However, some athletes are no ordinary high school athletes. These new players happen to be students who are still in the seventh and eighth grades. 

In the Fort Mill School District, middle school students have been allowed to participate in high school sports for a few years now.  “It gives the students the opportunity to participate and also get to know the school,” Principal Chris Chandler said. 

Nation Ford High School happens to be one of the last schools in the district to allow this new policy.

Nation Ford only allows middle school students to participate in these sports if they are on the varsity team. 

“Last year I was on the seventh-grade volleyball team,” eighth grader Lila Martin said. “The main difference is that when I was on the middle school team, I thought I had to be in control of everything. I was doing more than I needed to. On the varsity team, I feel that I can rely on my fellow teammates to uplift me and each other.” 

Being on the varsity team does come with bigger responsibilities and is a huge step for these middle schoolers. 

“The challenge of the swim team would be competing against high-schoolers,” seventh-grader Zachary Ogden admits.

The average height of a 14-year-old boy is between 59 to 67.5 inches, while the average height of an 18-year-old boy is 65 to 73 inches, so it can be very intimidating competing against young adults as a preteen. 

“Challenges that you might experience when you are participating in cross country include going against people who are a lot taller than you and people with tons more experience than you.”  eighth grader Jake Cintron

Another challenge these players face is managing their school work along with their sport. “Managing my schoolwork has gotten harder while I have been on the team,” eighth grader Carolyn Miller said. “However, I have figured out ways that work for me to get my homework done quickly and more efficiently while being on the golf team.”

Many of these athletes plan on continuing their sport once they graduate from middle school. “I definitely see myself continuing golf in high school and I think I am very lucky to have the benefit of starting early,” Campbell Reiking admits. 

Starting these sports in middle school puts these players at somewhat of an advantage of being used by the coaches and the other players on their team. 

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