GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — Over the past few years, GRPS middle school scholars have had the exciting opportunity to participate on sports teams prior to attending high school, through organized cooperative programs offered at several locations throughout the Grand Rapids community. 

Students signed up for these cooperative programs are able to participate in a sport of their choice and are provided with transportation, uniforms, and equipment.

“Without these programs, the middle schools would not be able to organize sports teams,” says CA Frost Athletic Director Dan Covey. “Their individual enrollment is small, which makes combining middle schools into one athletic program such a great opportunity for scholars.”

With six middle schools coming in to play sports through his cooperative program at CA Frost, Covey stays busy each year organizing the teams, overseeing the coaches, and communicating with the staff to make sure everything runs smoothly. 

The cooperative programs also have a no-cut policy, which allows scholars to try different types of sports to determine which they want to pursue in the future or just play for fun.

Covey mentions how these programs prepare middle school scholars for high school sports teams, where they are likely to be participating in larger regional and state-wide games and meets.

“The hope is to get the students passionate about a specific sport while they are in middle school, so they choose to continue participating in that sport when they attend high school,” Covey says. 

Middle School Athletic Director Jolinda Lucas runs another cooperative program that involves three other middle schools in the area. With 36 years of education experience under her belt, Lucas has noticed a shift in the number of scholars involved in athletics since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“Scholars are just starting to get back into the swing of things post-pandemic,” says Lucas. “These cooperative programs are easing the scholars back into extracurriculars, and I hope to continue seeing an upward trend.”

Lucas enjoys organizing her teams in a way that allows scholars to collaborate and make friendships, while also being able to get outside, explore, and participate in something they are passionate about. 

Lucas is familiar with the preferences of colleges and universities as they look at an applicant’s resume. That is why she refers to these cooperative programs as “resume-builders.”

“It is something that you can show you are involved in outside of academics,” says Lucas. “As a former athlete, I know that being involved in a sport teaches you so many life skills.”

She mentions how team building, empathy, sportsmanship, and the ability to take criticism are just some of the skills scholars will be introduced to if they choose to participate in athletics or extracurriculars. 

Both Lucas and Covey are eager to see more students take the opportunity to participate in middle school sports through cooperative programs. They are excited to see where their teams will take them during this academic year but are also prepared to coordinate more teams for next year.