MARYSVILLE — Middle school sports are back in Marysville schools. Snohomish County is fronting the bill.
On Wednesday, multiple nonprofit and government agencies announced they will partner to restore on-campus athletic teams in the Marysville School District. The district cut middle school sports to help balance the budget after two failed attempts to renew a four-year education programs and operations levy.
Under the partnership, Snohomish County agreed to pay $75,000 in “seed money” for “alternative sports programs,” said Snohomish County Council Member Nate Nehring. The Marysville and Tulalip Boys and Girls Clubs will run volleyball and flag football in the fall, and the Marysville YMCA will run soccer and basketball in the spring.
Nehring, whose council district includes Marysville, said the seed money will come from the county’s leftover Human Services Department grant funds. It will pay for the cost of a program coordinator, referees, some equipment and a portion of the recreation team participation fees.
“I attended schools in Marysville, and I coached in schools … so seeing middle school sports cut entirely was hard to see in my hometown,” Nehring said. “I wanted to see what we could do to provide some sort of alternative.”
The county funding covers just the 2022-23 school year, so the school district will “need to find a way to make this sustainable” if it wants to continue offering the programs, Nehring said. The district is expected to put another levy on the ballot in February 2023, though revenue from that levy, if it passed, would not be available until 2024.
The teams will not be run by the school district, and they will not be affiliated with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the organization that typically manages public school sports teams. Rather, students will sign up for the existing recreational league offered through the Boys and Girls Club and a new, school-based intramural league through the YMCA. Those programs will offer some practices and games at school sites.
“We are trying to keep it right down the middle between what we normally do and what the school does,” said Tom Cohee, athletics director for the Marysville and Tulalip Boys and Girls Club. “The biggest part of it is getting to offer this recreational outlet to the kids.”
Cohee said the experience will be “a little bit different” from what students are used to with the WIAA teams. For example, the volleyball and football athletes will play on a team with a mix of similarly aged students from Marysville, including players who are not enrolled in the school district, as opposed to a strictly school-based team. The basketball and soccer programs will host Marysville middle school students in an independent league of teams from those schools.
“My goal … is that we would get two to three teams per gender, per school, so that then they would be able to play other schools during the season,” said Allison Hoot, youth sports director for the Marysville YMCA. “It would be set up similar to an actual sports season.”
None of the programs will compete against school-based teams from other school districts.
Some sports may look different, too. Students this year will play flag football as opposed to tackle football traditionally played in schools, because the Boys and Girls Club doesn’t offer tackle football, Cohee said.
The teams will be led by volunteer coaches. Cohee and Nehring encouraged community members to sign up to coach, so the programs can be successful.
“The nonprofits are stepping up in a big way here … and the district is providing the facility use for this,” Nehring said. “But there is a need or a request from the community, and that’s the coaching, the volunteer piece, because typically the district would pay for coaches, and we don’t have the funding to do that.”
Cohee added: “Without coaches, the kids can’t play.”
In a prepared statement, School Board Member Wade Rinehardt said the board is “absolutely pleased” by the decision.
“This is absolutely a case where the District, the County, and the Marysville community are coming together to fill a need,” Rinehardt said. “I am sure that this partnership will bear amazing experiences for our middle school students and the community at large.”
Students can sign up for the programs directly through the Boys and Girls Club or YMCA. There is a $125 fee to play — paid to the organization and not the school district — but need-based scholarships are available.
Mallory Gruben is a Report for America corps member who writes about education for The Daily Herald.