For the first time in five years, Bibb County middle school basketball teams aren’t playing preseason games.
Middle school wrestlers are missing out on matches this month too.
To try to save money, the Bibb County school system is curtailing middle school winter athletic programs during the month of December, said Raynette Evans, the school system’s athletic director.
Central office administrators decided last month that each middle school boys and girls basketball teams would not play four games this month and that each school’s wrestling team would miss one match. About 600 athletes are affected.
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The move is one more response to more than $2 million in state cuts from Bibb’s school budget earlier this school year — and anticipation that more cuts may be needed.
The retrenchment also is hitting high schools. Varsity spring sports will be limited to a 50-mile, one way travel radius, she said
“We are very conscious of the fiscal condition and economy we’ve been in since school began,” Evans said. “Certainly our plan is to continue to have middle school athletics. We’re just not playing some middle school preseason games.”
The cancellation is expected to save thousands in fuel and utility costs, as well as the savings from not paying officials for the games, Evans said. Middle school teams were scheduled to travel across the county and to play Oak Hill Middle School in Milledgeville and Fort Valley Middle School in Peach County.
Coaches and players were notified of the cancellation around the Thanksgiving break.
It was a disappointment for some of the athletes.
“We did a lot of hard work and can’t show our efforts during the game,” said Appling Middle School eighth-grader Vincent Brookins.
His basketball coach, Terrence Redmond, said the team has been practicing since Sept. 3, and will now go into the regular January season without a good barometer on how well their players can compete against other teams.
“You don’t really have a true picture about what your team looks like,” Redmond said. “But everybody’s going in the same way.”
“All the coaches understand,” said Rutland Middle School Athletic Director Amanda Maddox.
Rutland had to cancel a Friday wrestling match against Ballard-Hudson, Bloomfield and Miller middle schools, as well as a basketball game this week against Weaver Middle School.
“Kids were disappointed they didn’t get to start,” Maddox said. “They’re kids. They got over it.”
The school system started playing preseason games five years ago to give coaches more opportunity to watch and evaluate their teams, Evans said.
“We allowed basketball to play too many games,” she said. “This was an opportunity as we evaluate all programs to address it.”
Practice sessions for middle school basketball players and wrestlers also are being limited to just a few days during the holiday break to save on utility costs.
The regular season for middle school games begins Jan. 7.