While The Wellesley Public Schools provide opportunities for students to enjoy extracurricular activities, due to budget, field & facility limitations, far too many students do not have access to programs that would benefit their physical and mental health. Only a limited number of athletic programs are offered to Wellesley Middle School students (grades 6-8), the majority only to eighth graders. At Wellesley High School, over 300 students tried out for, and were cut from athletic teams in 2014. Not accounted for are many students who do not try out because they fear the negative social stigma of being cut.
Recent communications from WHS & WMS principals were sent at the request of Wellesley Police concerning problems with crowds of students loitering and causing problems for local businesses after school. Clearly, there is a critical shortage of engaging after school activities. Our mission is to provide innovative after school programming to allow unserved students the physical and mental health benefits of recreation.
Our Pilot is open to all 1,200 WMS students as well as various paid supporting roles (coaches, referees, media, etc.) for WHS students and WPS teachers. Initial programs include popular activities such as Flag Football, Dodgeball, Wiffleball, etc., promoting inclusive play vs. elite competition to provide enjoyable and beneficial experiences to all participants.
Program benefits include:
- Opportunities for students to participate as student DJs, announcers & social media correspondents to create & share energetic environments.
- League formats to generate interest, build team and life skills while helping students connect.
- Development of school spirit and tradition via tournaments to culminate each season.
- Mentoring programs to develop coaching and leadership skills for WHS Students & WPS teachers.
We also envision our programs to provide needed alternatives to competitive athletics. Creating programs emphasizing fun and inclusiveness versus competition and elitism will provide an invaluable outlet for kids who just want to have fun playing ball after school.
With support from leadership and faculty representatives at WMS, in the Fall of 2014 we launched a pilot program, with results demonstrating the validity of our concerns and the value of our program. Over 70 students participated in our co-ed flag football league and another 30 in co-ed soccer. Participants were surveyed with 100% requesting additional programs along with many supportive comments.
We consider the success of our pilot to be a prime example that kids can and will make good choices if engaging opportunities are provided to them. With 100% of pilot participants requesting future programs, we are working to create an organizational cornerstone to build upon the success of our initial pilot and ultimately create a sustainable organization to serve our community.
We will continue to regularly benchmark and survey participants as well as parents and stakeholders. Depending on additional funders we are open to additional metrics to ensure that the greatest impact and measurement is occurring.