The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 18, 2013

Area schools slowly implementing emerging activities

Emerging activities approved last spring by the Missouri High School Activities Association have been cautiously embraced by area activities directors.

Bowling, chess, target shooting and bass fishing are among the activities that MSHSAA has agreed to oversee, but structuring the new activities has been slow to develop.

“What we have done is register with MSHSAA,” said Carl Junction activities director Jesse Wall. “We registered for bowling, target shooting, bass fishing and chess with the understanding that we would determine how much interest there is. If we have enough people interested, we’ll go ahead and do it.”

Although procedural questions remain, the most likely way one of the new activities would be offered would be if a group of students expressed an interest and were willing to form a team, said Carthage activities director Andy Youngworth.

“We haven’t actively promoted them yet,” Youngworth said. “One of the things we look at is what, if any, cost there would be to the school. It’s more like a club-type competition. I saw an email from (Joplin activities director Jeff Starkweather) who wanted to know how many people are jumping into this feet first,” he said. “We aren’t. We are in the exploratory stages.”

Several issues, including liability insurance, travel and other expenses, could affect the availability of activities such as bass fishing and target shooting.

John Karraker, who operates a private target shooting range near Carl Junction, said he stresses gun safety training first before introducing older kids to target shooting.

“There’s no real gun handling. It’s more what you do if you find a firearm,” he said. “You need to tell a parent. It’s not cool to play with a gun.

“The older kids, if their parents approve, we’ll take them out to the firing range,” Karraker said. “We do the safety class. We want them to be curious in the right way and ask the right questions. We stress the fact that even toy guns aren’t toys any more.”

Karraker said his shooting range is one of three private shooting ranges in the immediate Joplin area, along with a public shooting range in Newton County.

The administrators said they don’t expect the new activities to generate revenue for school districts, although expenses for chess and bowling would be relatively easy to calculate — as long as travel isn’t an issue.

“We have some very competitive fishermen in our school district,” Youngworth said. “The biggest concern I have is, other than football, there’s not anything we do where gate receipts and expenses equal out.”

Finding suitable facilities is another potential hurdle.

“There are really only a couple of options for bowling,” Wall said. “Bass fishing, there are several areas you could fish in. Chess, there’s not a lot of expense to it. Target shooting, we already have an archery club, so we would just have to go forward from there.

“There is a line,” he said. “You want to offer as many activities as you can, but you don’t want to take away from your existing sports.”

Youngworth offered an example of a situation he would not like to see.

“You wouldn’t want someone to take a kid from the speech or debate team just so they can play chess,” he said.

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