GR Schools to Offer Sports to K-8 Students at No Cost

Kids attending Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) will be able to participate in sports programs regardless of their ability to pay thanks to a new fundraising initiative.

Through a partnership with the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation (SAF), the district recently launched a community-wide fundraising campaign to support the GR8 Sports, Great Kids program, which ensures access to K-8 sports to all students.

While a lot of districts offer pay-to-play sports, the financial commitment is especially tough to come up with for low-income families. In GRPS, 86 percent of students live in homes where the annual household income averages $27,710.

 SAF Executive Director Michele Suchovsky said kids in neighboring districts tended to start organized sports in 1st grade, while kids in GRPS often weren’t joining organized sports teams until the 5th or 6th grade. This put them behind when it came to learning the fundamentals of the sports they wanted to participate in, plus it took away an opportunity to learn team dynamics and a chance to get more physical activity.

Further down the road, high school freshmen ended up playing varsity-level sports when they did start, which meant 15-year-olds were often playing against peers from neighboring districts who were much older and more advanced.

“Kids would actually be getting hurt because they didn’t have the training,” Suchovsky said.

Not only does getting kids involved in sports earlier help them compete at a higher level athletically, there are also academic and social benefits students realize. In 2014, GRPS middle school athletes scored seven percent higher on standardized tests than their non-athlete counterparts. They also were exposed to a caring and supportive adult coach. Suchovsky said having a positive adult role model is vitally important in reinforcing to students the need to stay in school and to strive for success.

“These coaches really become mentors and really important parts of their lives,” she said.

K-5 sports offered include soccer, track & field, basketball and cross-country. Grades 6-8 sports include co-ed cross country, boys’ football, girls’ volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls’ basketball, boys wrestling, co-ed bowling, boys’ baseball, girls’ softball, co-ed competitive cheer, co-ed track and co-ed swim.

Funding for GR8 Sports, Great Kids comes from a combination of community support and GRPS. By the 2018/2019 school year, community support will need to be at least $500,000 annually. GRPS will match these funds up to $300,000.

Learn more about GR8 Sports, Great Kids here.

Do your elementary- and middle-school kids play sports? Why does your family make athletics a priority? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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Photo credit: USAG – Humphreys

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