“Coming to a new school, I was worried about a lot of things,” says new 9th grader Katie Kessler. “Would I make new friends? Were the classes going to be way harder? Would I like my teachers? One of the things I was really nervous about was being ineligible for sports. The rule is that after 7th grade anyone transferring from one school to another, if both schools are within Huntsville city limits, is not able to compete in meets or games for any Alabama high school team for a year.”
“But,” says Katie, “being ineligible doesn't mean that you can't join a team; it just means you can't compete for that first year. So, I went ahead and joined the cross country team and am I glad I did. While I wasn't new to running, this was the first time I had ever run cross country. Being ineligible was actually really helpful, because otherwise I would have had to enter a meet with only a few weeks of training with the Randolph coaches. Now I know what cross country is like and how to train for it, so when I am able to compete next year, I can dive right in and (hopefully) do well in the meets.”
Katie continues, “If you're ineligible, then I don't recommend sitting out a year; you should go ahead and join whatever team you're interested in. This way you get to know the coaches, what the schedule is like, and, what is maybe most important to new students, meet the other kids. I especially recommend joining a team if they start practice before the school year begins, because then, on that first day of school, you have a group of kids you already know. That's the best part of joining a team—the bond you have with your teammates. When I joined the cross country team, I had only run track. It was really a great experience to get to know new people and a new sport with minimal pressure.”
About 60% of our Upper School students play at least one sport. Being an athlete at Randolph is an important part of the student experience, from skill-development to building character. Randolph Athletics, from grades 7 through 12, competes in the Alabama High School Athletic Association at the 4A level this year and 5A in the 2014-15 school year. We are very proud of this relationship and the opportunities that this presents.
We often hear questions from new students and their parents about whether or not they will able to play. AHSAA regulations are in place to provide a level playing field, but sometimes the rules can be confusing.
- Eligibility restrictions to do not apply to students entering before 7th grade.
- All incoming 7th graders are eligible at the start of the first semester, regardless of their place of residence.
- If you are starting Randolph at the start of the semester and after the seventh grade and you have just moved to Huntsville you are only eligible to compete if you reside within the city limits of Huntsville.
- If you are transferring schools from within the Huntsville area and after the seventh grade and you are coming from a member school it will be very likely that you will be ineligible from competition in the AHSAA for a period of 365 days.
If a new student finds that he or she will be ineligible, I wholeheartedly agree with what Katie said – join the team! You can practice, travel, workout, and develop like everyone else.
Senior Anna Woodard came to Randolph hoping to play basketball. “This was a struggle because I am very competitive, but I realized very quickly that I could use the time in practice to get better at my skills and grow a relationship with my teammates. Sitting out was tough, but it was good for me to build my character by learning and allowing myself to get my feet under me for my first year at Randolph. Even though I sat out for a year it did not damage my basketball career. By encouraging my teammates I was able to fill the void when I was sitting on the sidelines. Also, the Randolph community encouraged me to excel in other areas.” At the end of this year’s basketball season, Anna was named team MVP.
For new 9th grader Leighton Luther, coming to Randolph was part of a decision to shift his priorities to academics while still being a committed athlete. Leighton started playing T-ball at age 5 and has played on local and travel league baseball teams ever since and also enjoys playing football.
“Athletics was everything and being selected for the Huntsville High baseball team in 8th grade was all he ever wanted,” says his mom, Leigh Anne, but when Leighton started at Huntsville this fall, he felt like he was missing something. “He realized that sports would end one day, but academics wouldn’t.”
By the time Leighton had made the decision to join brother Neill, a junior, at Randolph, school had already started and he had two weeks’ catching up to do. “At Huntsville, he had 45-minute classes back-to-back with no break. The time to meet with teachers was very limited and the schedule was tightly structured. While the work at Randolph is harder academically,” Leigh Anne says, “the teachers have an open-door policy so there is less pressure. He is more relaxed.”
Leighton understood he would not be eligible to play in games for a year but decided to make the sacrifice. He also decided to join the Randolph football team, which is something he was not going to do at HHS, says Leigh Anne. Another big factor for him was being able to attend school with his brother. He hopes to get on the football field with him next year. “He loved being part of the team and is now playing baseball. He’s even thinking about playing basketball next year, too.”
"I have been at Randolph for not even a year and being on these teams has helped me bond with not only my teammates but also my coaches," says Leighton. "They feel like one big family. Everyone, from the teachers to the coaches to the student body, makes me feel welcome. You aren’t just growing as an athlete at Randolph, but also as a student."
Leigh Anne says the only regret Leighton has is missing the guys he had played with for so many years. Leighton told his mom, “If I could have taken my best friends to Randolph, I would have had the best of everything.”
For more information about AHSAA eligibility requirements for 7-12th graders, please visit the AHSAA website and read their fact sheet "What every parent should know about AHSAA eligibility rules." Feel free to contact our Admissions or Athletics offices with any questions, 256-799-6103 or 6165.
Photo: Anna Woodard '14 at the girls basketball regional semifinals, by Debbie Tomlinson.