The Middle School Perspective on Athletics
Apex High School is full of many amazing star athletes, but where do they get their start? Some athletes start out playing on recreational teams or even start playing in high school. Some, though, make their start on a middle school team. With many of our students, and thus athletes, coming from Apex Middle, I wanted to sit down with the athletic director from the middle school to get his take on middle school sports.
Name: Micheal Combs
Role: Athletic Director at Apex Middle School
What is your position and role at Apex Middle School?
I am a Healthful Living teacher, athletic director, the coach for volleyball and track & field.
Where did you get your education from?
I got my undergrad in P.E. and Health Education at Slippery Rock University and my Masters in Health Education from ECU.
Are you from North Carolina? If not, where are you from?
No, I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, and lived there until I graduated college.
What led you to work in the physical education field?
I had a Middle School PE teacher whom I loved. In high school, I became very interested in running and had a health teacher that cemented my interest in being a teacher.
What sports do you coach?
I coach girls volleyball and track.
What led you to those sports?
I got into running as a high school student, and it absolutely changed my life! I became a better student and found a tight group of friends that made the right choices. I felt a sense of dedication to my school community after being involved, and this drove me to continue to involve myself on the coaching level. For volleyball, I always had an interest in the sport. I can’t say that I was ever that good at it, but in college, we spent a lot of time with the volleyball team and grew interested in the sport. When I interviewed for my position at Apex Middle, they asked if I were interested and I said yes. Ms. Hodge was the head coach, and she did a tremendous job of showing me the right way to coach children. I loved the team dynamic, and it is a completely different form of strategizing in this sport. I’m in my twelfth year of coaching this sport and have loved every one of them.
Do you think participating in a school sport- as opposed to a recreation league- in middle school is needed to play high school sports?
I don’t think anything compares to putting on your school’s jersey and playing in front of your peers. Outside teams are great, and I’m all for participating in any sport or club, but there is no comparison to the experience you get on a school team. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to compete in middle school as it’s never too late to get into sports.
How does participation in middle school sports teams prepare rising athletes for high school sports?
I think middle school participation prepares you for the daily commitment that high school Sports brings. Through a sports season, you learn so much about how to become a better teammate as well as learning how to perform in front of your friends.
What are the benefits, outside of physical exercise, for student-athletes?
The social benefits are tremendous! The thrill of winning is what drives athletes, but when all is said and done, you will be left with the memories of your teammates! There is a mutual respect that builds as you fight and struggle with the same people every day while chasing a mutual dream. This process teaches you to accept others for what they are. You also learn how to give and receive criticism in a constructive way.
Those are some wise words! Do the Apex Middle sports teams impact the school and/or community? If so, in what ways?
I hope that we do. I’m hoping that our teams demonstrate the values of this area and represent this community in the right way, regardless of the final score. Our teams help build school and community spirit.
What is your favorite part about being a coach? Least favorite?
I love the relationships with my athletes. There is nothing better than getting to know these kids on a deeper level than what I can achieve in the standard classroom. I love getting to see my athletes after they’ve graduated and enjoy seeing all of their successes. The least favorite is easily the organizational aspects of coaching: organizing jerseys, shirt orders, parent emails, etc. With that said, as a coach, you understand that this is part of the job and you get better at it as the years go on.
I am so grateful that Coach Combs took the time to sit down with me for this interview. It was an amazing experience to get to learn more about middle school athletics, the effects sports have, and Coach Combs’s story!
Great coach and teacher. Really gave our son the encouragement to pursue distance running. The middle school experience prepared our son to excel at the high school level. Not sure our son would have had the same high school athletic experience without coach Combs.
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