At the start of every school year, there are always changes. New teachers, new students and fresh new goals usually take over for the first few days until everyone gets settled in.
For students at Bartow Middle School, the changes included a new administration and some exciting new programs that will allow the community to get involved and support the school and its students.
The Polk County School District has given the county’s middle schools an opportunity to create athletic programs as extramural activities. Previously, the school had intramural sports competitions, but those programs were eliminated through budget cuts.
Bartow Middle School, with the support of principal Angela Gordon, will be taking part in the sports program to give the students another place to show their skills besides the classroom.
The first of these programs is under way as Bartow Middle School has taken the floor with girls basketball. The school is offering a junior varsity program and a varsity program. Despite the new nature of the program, it was something the girls wanted and it showed when tryouts were announced a few weeks ago.
“We had 36 come out for the tryouts,” said head coach Panchita Jackson. “From there, we selected 24 players. Some of those fell by the wayside and couldn’t commit to what needed to be done with practice and games. We only had two days of tryouts because we needed to get ready for the season.” The girls can only play if they had a 2.0 grade average or higher from the previous grading period (the fourth nine weeks of the 2011-2012 academic year).
The season started on Sept. 25 as Bartow traveled to play Lakeland Highlands Middle School. Because Bartow Middle School doesn’t have a gym, the team plays their home games at Union Academy. Tuesday, the first home game was a pair of exciting contests against Southwest Middle, highlighted by the JV squad’s overtime win.
This is clearly one of the exercises when the score is a secondary matter because the whole picture is about more than winning and losing. This is about opportunity and giving kids a chance to get enjoyment, exercise and experience that they may not have gotten in the past.
“Only a few of the girls have actually played organized basketball before,” said Jackson. “There are a couple with some game skills that are ahead of the others, but we are having to teach basics. We haven’t had many practices and we’ll get better with practice.”
The lack of gym has a direct effect on practice. The team uses the school’s outdoor courts, but afternoon rains can abruptly end or cancel a practice altogether. Jackson hopes to get more time in the Union gym, but there are lots of logistics involved like notifying parents and transporting players that hamper the idea. It adds to the challenges, but these obstacles do little to stop the enthusiasm and support from players and coaches. The coaches are teachers within the Bartow Middle School who freely give their time for practice and games to support the girls. Administrators do their part by volunteering for tasks like concession stand and ticket taking. It amounts to long days and nights that add to the role of educator, especially those who are giving up their family time. If you are looking for complaining, you won’t find it. You’ll find dedicated individuals who are committed to the success of the program that deserves community support.
Few supported the team when they traveled to Lakeland Highlands for their first game. Tuesday night, there were still seats available in the Union gym and it was an even mix between Bartow supporters and Southwest backers. It was pretty obvious that the Southwest team responded when their supporters out cheered the home fans, something Bartow girls could use on the road games as well as home contests. the cost of admission is $2 for adults and $1 for students for a pair of often exciting basketball games. The gate admission is given to the school district in support of the program. Bartow Middle School sells affordable refreshments at home games to help the BMS team.
All games are on Tuesday night with JV playing at 6 and varsity to follow at approximately 7 p.m. Bartow will be off this Tuesday (Oct. 9) before playing their final road game at Sleepy Hill Middle School (Oct. 16). The team will close their season with home games at Union Academy against Lawton Chiles (Oct. 23) and Rochelle (Oct. 30).
Assisting coach Jackson with the 2012 squad are Latrya Bogan, Tammye Duncan and Jolene Hawkins. members of the JV team are Kei’Sharia McCoy, Tamara Hunt, Janelle Kelley, Kia Mann, Jasmine McCloud, Tara Redinger, Jasmine Stevens, Jordan Timmons, Rochelle Williams and Shazmine Windham. The Varsity squad hits the court with Jashayla Blackmon, Shanqula Donaldson, Brittnay Horn, Courtaja Sanders, Alexis Simmons, Tyia Singleton, Shantrell Stephens, Melijah Sullivan and Brishonne Tollie.