Challenges of Adding New Sports to Athletic Programs

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Adding a new sport to a high school athletic program requires thought and preparation.

Growth and sustained success are two of the primary objectives for any athletic administrator. The addition of a new sport to a program’s offerings can be a challenging — but worthwhile — endeavor.

Though overall sports participation has dipped recently, schools across the country are moving forward with the expansion of sports programs for student-athletes. In Bakersfield, CA, for instance, the Kern High School District recently approved water polo for its interscholastic athletic programs.

Adding a new sport requires thought and preparation. Budget, staffing, and student competition are all factors that athletic directors (ADs) have to keep in mind, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

ADs also must take into account factors specific to a proposed new sport, such as student interest and participation, facility and equipment needs, and federal Title IX requirements for public high schools.

Offering a wide variety of sports — and adding new ones — is important because, per the New York Times, students who play high school sports stand to reap career, economic, and other benefits in adulthood.

“The benefits of athletic participation are immeasurable in an education-based program and the goal of every school should be to provide the opportunity to participate to the largest number of students as possible,” David Hoch, a high school coach and athletic director from Maryland, told the NFHS.

Degree programs such as Ohio University’s master’s in athletic administration online can provide the education and skills ADs need to oversee a successful interscholastic athletic program.

Factors to Consider When Adding a New Sport

When deciding whether to add a new sport, ADs need to keep several considerations in mind, including:

  • Budget. According to the Montgomery County, MD, school district, the final cost for adding a new sport to an interscholastic athletic program should be multiplied by two to account for the addition of both boys and girls sports teams, unless the sport is a truly coed program. Additionally, costs such as coach stipends, transportation, uniforms, equipment, rental fees, supervision, and security should be factored into the budget.
  • Expenses for students. Additional expenses, such as personal costs that students incur for things like transportation, practice clothing, and shoes (depending on the sport), should be “reasonable” for participants when adding a new sport, according to the Montgomery County school district.
  • Staffing. Finding a qualified coach largely depends on the school’s geographical location. Schools can face obstacles to finding the right person, especially for new and emerging sports, Hoch told the NFHS.
    Some districts, like the one in Maryland, rely on teachers as coaches. Others look outside the school, the NFHS reports. When bringing in outside coaches, ADs need to set aside time for mentoring to make sure new hires become “the best representatives of their school,” according to the NFHS.
  • Federal requirements. Passed in 1972, Title IX protects students who participate in public school programs that receive federal financial assistance from gender discrimination. ADs should ensure that their program complies with Title IX requirements by adding sports that appeal to both genders.
  • Facility space and equipment needs. Can current facility spaces, including gymnasiums, stadiums, and outdoor interscholastic sports fields, accommodate a new sport while still supporting existing athletics? If not, the school might need additional space, which would also have to include equipment the students need for practice without disrupting other sports.
  • Student interest and participation. Hoch suggests surveying the student body and incoming middle school students to gauge their interest in potential new sports. He told the NFHS this procedure helps “accurately measure the level of interest” and is a good indicator of whether the sport is worth the investment.
  • Competition. Scheduling games against other schools in the district is also a consideration. Do enough nearby schools offer a sport so teams can play competitively? Even so, niche sports such as badminton and table tennis have been successfully incorporated into New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League.
  • Retention. Initiatives such as student-focused sports marketing campaigns, rewards for athletic participation, and athletic fairs for middle schoolers can interest new students and keep current athletes coming back, according to the NFHS.
    “The programs with the best opportunity to succeed are the ones that are targeting younger kids and getting them ingrained in the community at an early age,” Robert Zayas, the executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, told the NFHS. “This creates the next generation of high school athletes.”

About Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration Program

Ohio University was the first college to offer an academic sports program in the country, and its tradition of innovative excellence continues with its Online Master of Athletic Administration (MAA) program. It builds on student passions for serving student-athletes and running a highly successful athletic department, making Ohio University a top pick for sports education.

Ohio University is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Business School” and The Princeton Review as a “Best College.” The online MAA program is accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA). For more information, contact OHIO today.


Related Reading

Interscholastic Officiating

The Legal Duties of Athletic Departments

2019 Trends in High School Sports Administration


Ask the Athletic Director: Adding a New Sport to Your Program: National Federation of State High School Associations

Participation in High School Sports Registers First Decline in 30 Years: National Federation of State High School Associations

KHSD board adds water polo to sports offerings:

The Case for High School Activities: National Federation of State High School Associations

High School Athletes Gain Lifetime Benefits: The New York Times

Considerations for Adding New Teams to Your Program: National Federation of State High School Associations

Classroom with a Scoreboard: Important Role of Athletics in Education: National Federation of State High School Associations

Estimated probability of competing in college athletics: NCAA

Title IX and Sex Discrimination: U.S. Department of Education

Procedures for Adding a New Interscholastic Sport: Montgomery County Public Schools

Chancellor Carmen Fariña and actress Susan Sarandon announce the addition of table tennis and badminton varsity sport to public schools athletic league: Team USA

Increasing Student Participation, Retention in High School Sports: National Federation of State High School Associations

Athletic Directors Have Task of Mentoring Non-Teacher Coaches: National Federation of State High School Associations