Next spring, high school students in Kentucky will have the opportunity to compete in bass fishing as a school-sanctioned varsity sport.
Kentucky follows the lead of Illinois, which was the first U.S. state to offer bass fishing as a varsity high school sport, starting back in the spring of 2009. This past spring, 232 high schools across Illinois featured bass fishing teams, said Illinois High School Association executive director Matt Troha to The Kentucky Enquirer in May.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association announced back in February that the sport would come to schools starting in late February 2013. The association will offer a state-wide bass fishing championship for students in April 2013.
"To say we are excited to sponsor bass fishing as a state championship sport-activity is an understatement," said KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett in a statement at the time. "Not only does it seem like a natural fit, given the number of Kentuckians of all ages who enjoy fishing and the outdoors, but it also allows us to reach one more group of students who may not already participate in an extra-curricular activity and give them a chance to be a part of a team."
"We're not stealing [student-athletes] from the soccer team, we're not stealing from the baseball program," Tackett said at a press conference in February. "These are brand new kids who have never represented their school in a state championship."
KHSAA worked with The Bass Federation's Student Angler Federation to address liability concerns raised by administrators about the implementation of bass fishing as a school-sanctioned sport. Each student interested in participating on their school's bass fishing team will need to pay $25 to become a member of the SAF, which includes $1 million of general liability coverage.
According to KHSAA bylaws, other sports require prospective student-athletes to have medical insurance in place, which member schools must verify before allowing the student-athlete to participate in athletics.
More than 100 retired school administrators had called KHSAA before the unveiling of the new sport, expressing a willingness to help with the tournament, Tackett said during his February press conference.
Mark Gintert, national youth director with The Bass Federation, told The Kentucky Enquirer that bass fishing is "a Title IX dream for a school."
"It doesn't matter if you're a girl, a boy, if you're four-foot-six or six-foot-four, 300 pounds or 30 pounds, that fish has no idea who's on the end of that rod," he said. "... So boys and girls can stand side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, and fish in these tournaments and win."
Gintert told the paper that Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee could soon follow suit by introducing bass fishing as a school-sanctioned sport.
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