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Middle School: Basketball, Soccer look good to return next year
S-K Pilot programs extremely successful according to Athletics/Activities Coordinator
What began as an experiment to gauge local interest in more middle school athletics in the Salem-Keizer School District has turned into plans to bring back basketball and soccer teams to all of the district’s 11 middle schools.
The second phase of the district’s pilot program—focusing on soccer—was wrapped up in late May. The so called “jamboree” of soccer games held at various locations over two Friday afternoons in April and May was an unqualified success, according to Salem-Keizer Athletics/Activities Coordinator Lara Tiffin.
Tiffin says that more than 500 middle schoolers took part in the soccer pilot, after nearly 400 students participated in the basketball program in the winter.
The teams from all across the school district gathered at places as varied as McKay High School, Willamette University and West Salem High, and were coached by school staff and community volunteers. The pilot program was coordinated by Tiffin, Mike Cowan of the group Grass Roots After School Soccer Program (GRASSP), longtime South Salem boys soccer coach Eric Johansen, and athletics secretary Kelli Nielsen. Photos taken of the event reflected the large measure of enthusiasm shown by the athletes.
“We witnessed a bit of swagger… as the student-athletes proudly wore their school jerseys and showed the huge crowd the results of their hard work and preparation,” said Tiffin with a chuckle.
The pilot program success for both basketball and soccer has Tiffin making plans to offer full-fledged schedules for both sports next year, with four basketball and four soccer teams each at the middle schools. Transportation would also be provided between schools for games during the week.
“Providing healthy opportunities for our middle school students to engage with their peers, connect with their schools, develop leadership skills, and build character is a major goal of mine,” said Tiffin in announcing her program intentions for 2023-24.
Exact details—including schedules—for the expanded middle school sports offerings next year will be worked out over the summer months.
It is a great addition for kids in the Salem-Keizer area.