A Win-Win: Lion Coaches Back Middle School Option


It is probably not surprising that the head coaches of three of the main sports at Cannon County High School are in favor of a middle school for the county.

However, Lionette basketball coach Michael Dodgen, Lion hoop coach Matt Rigsby and Lion football coach Joel Schrenk also know their main role at the school is that of an educator, and they each feel a middle school would help improve the academic achievement of students.

Cannon County Schools is in the process of formulating a plan to present to the public about whether a middle school should be incorporated into the system.

Touted as one of the benefits of having a middle school is that it would help the athletic teams at CCHS compete at a higher level. CCHS coaches also believe it would help student-athletes in all aspects of their scholastic experience.

“As an educator I feel that the middle school possibility is a great stepping stone to help improve our academics from the standpoint of getting the students ready for the changes of high school level academics and offering more academics related to content to these kids,” Dodgen, who is also the school’s athletic director, said.

Dodgen is also convinced a middle school would help his Lionettes achieve greater success at the regional and statewide levels of competition.

“In my judgment and thoughts a middle school would really help with every aspect of athletics from the competition level all the way to skill development,” Dodgen said. “In our district now every school except for us has middle school programs who compete against other teams in this district and state wide, it gives you a gauge as a coach to see where your program stands playing these schools year in and year out.

“Also from a coaching standpoint it eliminates the rivalries from the athletes and parents standpoint of where their children play grammar school basketball and then when they come to Cannon County High School they have to work and play together on one solid team. The thought of a middle school athletic program is a great opportunity for our athletic programs here at Cannon County High School.”

If Cannon County does go to a system with a middle school, it would likely be for grades six through eight. The current system has students in those grades attending one of seven elementary school before advancing to the high school, which is grades nine through 12.

A middle school is the ideal situation for academics and athletics, said Lion basketball coach Rigsby, who listed the following reasons:


• Players learn how to play together beginning their sixth grade year vs. ninth grade year (team cohesion).

• Allow for players to learn my system of play earlier.

• A middle school head coach can teach the system of the high school head coach.

• Face outside competition! If it wasn’t for my AAU program now, kids would only play each other at the elementary school levels, and never experience traveling to play other programs.

• 6th-8th grade kids should play and practice on a regulation size basketball floor, rather than have their skill set, and space for added practice, limited because of the smaller elementary school gyms.

• All 19 teams on our basketball schedule from last year have a system where a middle school is in place for thier players.

• An opportunity for your future players to all be together to initiate a strength and conditioning program.


• Instead of having to input six different Science labs for six different schools, a centralized building with one exceptional lab would be more feasible.

• Kids will learn to socially adjust to each other, and the diversity in a classroom at an earlier age, which would limit discipline issues on the high school level.

• Middle school students would benefit at the high school level by experiencing a high school environment (lockers, class changes, etc)

• Endorsed teachers in specific content areas to add a specialized degree to teach state standards.

Schrenk, who next year will begin his second season at the helm of the CCHS football program, has already been involved in a situation where a school system converted to the middle school alignment, and benefits to the high school football program were evident.

“When I was very young in my coaching career the school (system) I worked at did not have middle school football. When the middle schools started playing football we noticed immediately a change in our ninth graders. They know more football, were tougher, and more mature. It was a tremendous help to the JV and Varsity to have those kids playing in middle school as opposed to playing Jr pro,” Schrenk said.

“The second thing that was important is that they (the middle school program) were running our stuff with our terminology. That was very important because it took us less time teaching them the basics because they already knew what we were going to do. Middle school football was a HUGE asset to the high school program.

“I also know that those same kids that came from middle school football were much more adapted to high school academics. One of the reasons was they were already dealing with coaches and passing classes to remain eligible. They were more mature and respectful. They were familiar with lockers, class changes, teacher changes and most importantly, time management. It also helped with discipline in the middle schools because football could be use as a ‘carrot’ so to speak to help out that athlete who was having trouble both socially and academically.”

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