By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
Clovis athletic director Brian Stacy and several high school coaches are in favor of an administration proposal to put all ninth-graders in one location.
Stacy said the number of academic casualties among athletes making the transition to 10th grade is high — many never regain their eligibility — plus the move would make athletic programs more competitive.
About 33 percent of Clovis ninth-graders enter Clovis High behind schedule for the number of credits needed to graduate, according to administrators.
“Clovis is one of only two schools in New Mexico, and 3 percent in the country, that has this situation,” Stacy said. “The stats on the kids show that we lose them coming from ninth to 10th grade. For some, they’re so far behind there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Two equally skilled sports teams would be established at the ninth-grade academy and two equally skilled sports teams would be established at the two junior highs — which would house sixth-, seventh- and eight-graders — through a draft, according to the proposal. The teams would have approximately 40 members each and play neighboring schools, rather than each other.
Clovis track and assistant football coach Darren Kelley said moving the students to their own facility and having only two teams would make the programs more competitive, but it would not have a monumental effect on the football team.
“It would be an advantage to have the ninth-graders because they can develop chemistry,” Kelley said, “and they would have more time in the weight room. I don’t think it has a huge affect on us.”
Clovis boys basketball coach J.D. Isler said a competitive edge is an obvious positive to moving the ninth-graders.
“I think it’s a positive step,” Isler said. “Instead of 45 kids, you can narrow down to 30, and the practices will be more competitive, and you’re not diluting teams.”
The chance to assimilate the ninth-graders into the high school, Isler said, gives coaches more time to teach them how to be proper high school players as they will have more exposure to the programs.
“It helps academically,” he said, “with chemistry and getting our high school philosophy across to them —like our philosophy on proactive conduct and academic expectations.”
Clovis volleyball and girls track coach Darrel Ray also said the move is a right one, but added that not every ninth-grader is able to adapt to the varsity competition.
Ray said coaches can call up to two freshmen a year, but only if they are able to make a serious impact on the team.
He pointed to freshman Antiesha Brown as an example of an underclassman excelling on the varsity level. Brown played varsity volleyball and is on the varsity basketball team.
“If a kid’s able to perform and excel at the varsity level, they should be able to play,” Ray said. “Overall I think this would be better for Clovis High School.”