District offers course credit for athletes; New curriculum may transform team sports in Surprise

Valley Vista football player Ray Baquero rushes with the ball during practice in this August 2017 file photo. Future student-athletes will have the option to enroll to get course credit for participating in team sports in the Dysart district. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

By Jennifer Jimenez, Independent Newsmedia

Student athletes in Surprise next year will get course credit for participating in team sports, which until now were only extracurricular.

The new high school course curriculum, which was introduced to the Dysart Unified School District Governing Board and approved during the panel’s Nov. 14 meeting, modifies the high school curriculum to include sports-based physical education classes, according to Superintendent Dr. Quinn Kellis.

“Just as any elective class, the offering will be based on enrollment,” Mr. Kellis said. “Students who progress through tryouts of the given sport will be included in the class. Students who have been in the program the previous year are invited to enroll and others as well.”

The new program will start next fall for the 2019-20 school year and will include team sports, such as football, volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball, softball and spirit line.

As the program continues to build, individual sports – like golf or tennis – will likely be added in the future, according to Mr. Kellis.

“This is a new program for us and after a group of boosters, administration and others toured a school in the East Valley who has been doing it for over 30 years, it’s evident they have the experience and have grown the program up to where they are currently,” Mr. Kellis said. “We are starting at a level where it is more manageable.”

Mr. Kellis said the new curriculum fits with his district’s commitment to core district services for students, including academics, arts, and athletics.

“Our district wants to compete at the highest level and our athletic-based PE classes are evidence of our commitment to building winning athletic programs in our schools,” Mr. Kellis said. “The curriculum is one step towards fully competing academically and athletically against rival high schools while advancing student experiences.”

The program also offers honors credits for some students, according to Jim Dean, assistant superintendent for support services.

He said students in the program can opt into an enhanced honors curriculum, which adds learning about their sport and the athletic industry.

“Students can choose to take the course for regular credit or honors credit,” Mr. Dean said. “But those who elect to earn the honors credit will have additional coursework.”

Mr. Dean said participation in athletics is on the rise in the district and school officials are working to create teams that consistently compete for state championships down the road.

Josh Sekoch, head football coach at Valley Vista High School, welcomes the move, which he said gives the district’s sports programs a better chance to compete with teams East Valley.

“This is definitely a game-changer for the district,” Mr. Sekoch said. “We will still have to play catchup to the East Valley, but this gives us a valuable tool.”

He said the added class period won’t likely equate to extra practice time on the field, since few assistant coaches teach on campus. But the extra time can will allow him to work on individual skills, strength conditioning and the intellectual side of the sport with his student-athletes.

When not on the field, Mr. Sekoch teaches the physical conditioning class, one of many elective classes already available to students.

At the start of the current year, the district added a sports officiating class for elective credit as well, he said.

The new curriculum may also benefit multi-sport athletes, who may participate in one elective class during the fall for football and then, potentially, transfer into another for another spring season sport, such as baseball.

The coach said he is impressed with the direction the district is taking by focusing on providing a better high school experience for students in and out of the classroom.

He cited as example Dr. Kellis’ commitment to allowing the district’s marching band and spirit lines to attend away games during the football season.

“It’s a great direction for the district and I’m glad the administration is so supportive of our programs,” Mr. Sekoch said. “Now the students are coming together and we’ve seen this growth of camaraderie.”

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