More students in Jamestown may soon have the opportunity to participate in sports.
School board members on Tuesday approved the creation of a unified basketball team as well as a girls flag football team. Both programs will be added for the start of the spring 2023 season.
For the unified basketball team, the resolution brought by the superintendent and approved by the Jamestown Public Schools Board notes that a program will promote “social inclusion through intentionally planned activities with sports as the foundation.”
In addition, the resolution states, “these are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in, and feel a part of, all activities, opportunities and functions.”
Dr. Kevin Whitaker, schools superintendent, said unified sports, in general, have been a “growing phenomenon for the last several years.” They said Ben Drake, JPS Athletic director, has had conversations with other Section VI Athletic directors about establishing teams locally.
“They saw that there was an opportunity for us to have competition and to begin this program,” Whitaker said, “so he wanted to make sure that we gave kids the opportunity to participate in sports.”
Jamestown will start to play against other schools once more teams are developed. Whitaker said the school district doesn’t want to make “three-hour bus trips” for a competition.
Paul Abbott, school board president, expressed optimism for a unified basketball program.
“I think this is great and I’m glad to see that we’re doing it,” they said Tuesday.
As for girls flag football, a dozen teams have already been established with “plans to triple that number, with many Chautauqua County schools participating,” the resolution approved by school board member states. Similar to the unified basketball team, a girls flag football team in Jamestown will provide more students the chance to participate in athletics.
“We have a number of other teams who are interested in playing,” Whitaker told reporters after the meeting. “It’s a very popular sport that’s growing in popularity. And I know I’ve spoken to a number of local superintendents who are interested in starting teams, and so I would anticipate we will have both local and Sectional competition.”
Jamestown’s establishment of a girls team comes amid the NFL’s push this year to promote flag football, particularly for girls and women.
Just last week, according to an Associated Press story, the NFL released to its 32 teams a standardized guide providing steps to assist schools on how to establish flag football programs. With it comes an allotment of grants, with the NFL projecting it will cost about $9,000 a year per team to cover coaching salaries, referee costs, equipment and other fees.
According to the AP, there’s an estimated 20 million people playing flag football in 100 countries, with the US accounting for about 600,000. And six states have sanctioned girls flag football as a varsity sport, with 20 more launching pilot programs, the AP said.