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2014 Year in Review: The Top K-12 Sports Stories of the Year

When looking back on 2014, what K-12 sports stories will we remember? It's hard not to start with the legend of Mo'ne Davis.

Earlier this month, Sports Illustrated Kids named her the "Sports Kid of the Year," with none other than first lady Michelle Obama breaking the news. In her team's first Little League World Series game, she became the first girl to throw a shutout in the event's history, striking out eight while allowing just two hits.

Her attention-grabbing performance helped her become the first Little Leaguer to ever grace the cover of Sports Illustrated, and she drew praise from University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, too.

Davis wasn't the only big K-12 sports story of the year, however. Mississippi, which entered 2014 as the only state without a youth-concussion law, passed such a law at the end of January. California also enacted a law in July that prohibits high school and middle school football coaches from conducting more than two full-contact practices per week, building upon a trend of states beginning to tweak their original concussion laws passed within the last few years.

This fall, the big story was a wave of bullying and hazing scandals that gripped a number of youth-sports programs. In Sayreville, N.J., seven high school football players were charged with sex crimes in relation to an alleged hazing scandal that led to the cancellation of their team's season. The Central Bucks (Pa.) school district also cancelled the remainder of its high school varsity and junior varsity football seasons due to "allegations of improper conduct." The head coach of the high school team, Brian Hensel, will not be returning to his coaching duties next year due to a "lack of guidance and adequate supervision of the team."

Those weren't the only two schools grappling with hazing allegations. Eldred (N.Y.) High School forfeited its football team's season finale "amid reports of pervasive and widespread hazing," while Cheltenham (Pa.) High School released information about a reported hazing incident that occurred in September with its boys' soccer team.

Those ups and downs made for quite a memorable year of K-12 sports stories. Before flipping the calendar to 2015, here's a look at this year's 10 most-read Schooled in Sports posts.

10. Educators Want Mandatory Health, Physical Education Back in Schools, Survey Finds

A survey from KidsHealth in the Classroom from April 2013 found a majority of parents and educators to be dissatisfied with health and physical education programs in schools. Almost all educators (99 percent) surveyed believed physical education should be a required class, and the same percentage said health class should be required in both middle schools and high schools.

9. 'Strong Evidence' of Link Between Physical Activity, Academic Success

This January 2012 review sought to discover a potential link between childhood physical activity and academic performance. The systematic review of 14 studies from the past few decades found children who participate in physical activity also tended to benefit in the classroom, finding "strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance. 

8. Survey: High School Sports Participation at All-Time High

Back in 2011, the National Federation of State High School Associations revealed that an all-time high of 7,667,955 student-athletes participated in high school sports in the 2010-11 school year, an increase of 39,578 from the year prior. Earlier this year, the NFHS found high school sports participation to have risen for the 25th straight year, topping out nearly 7.8 million.

7. Why Sports in School?

This post, from the blog's earliest days, sought to answer the fundamental question of what value sports add in schools. Based on two accounts, sports appear to provide students with values they aren't otherwise learning in the classroom, such as teamwork, the value of outworking an opponent, and the importance of interpersonal communication in a high-pressure situation.

6. Should Schools Make Physical Education Mandatory?  

This post was also from the earliest days of this blog, examining whether physical education should be mandatory for all K-12 students. At the time, only five U.S. states had such a requirement—Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Vermont— while just Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana required the recommended 150-plus minutes of physical activity for elementary students, and Alabama, Montana, and Utah required the 225-plus minutes per week for junior high and high school students. 

5. Survey: Youth Athletes Feel Pressured by Steroid Use in Pro Sports

According to two surveys conducted by the Digital Citizens Alliance in July 2013, more than three-fourths of young U.S. males felt that performance-enhancing-drug use in professional sports puts pressure on young athletes to use steroids. Roughly 77 percent said that steroid use by professional athletes has a trickle-down effect to youth sports, giving youth athletes the impression that they must also use steroids to get ahead.

4. N.Y. Times Hosts Roundtable on Pros and Cons of Youth Sports

In October 2013, The New York Times' Room for Debate roundtable blog featured six panelists weighing in on whether competitive sports "overwhelm childhood or enhance it." Unsurprisingly, the panelists fell on both sides of the argument, noting the values youth sports can teach, such as teamwork, leadership, and sportsmanship, while also expressing concerns about injuries and adult who place too much of a premium on winning.

3. Physical Education Requirements Questioned for Student-Athletes

In New Mexico last summer, some parents were questioning the state's physical-education mandate, even for student-athletes already involved with sports. The state requires its high school students to take one year of phys. ed. to graduate, and, unlike many other states, it doesn't allow for waivers or exemptions for extracurricular activities like school sports.

2. NCAA Raises Minimum GPA for Incoming Student-Athletes

In Oct. 2011, the NCAA approved a package of proposals that boosted academic standards for student-athletes. Starting in August 2015, high school student-athletes who hope to play sports in college will need to have a 2.3 GPA to have immediate athletic eligibility, an increase on the 2.0 GPA they can have now.

1. Presidential Physical Fitness Test to Be Replaced After 2012-13

At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, the Presidential Physical Fitness Test was replaced by the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, a "health-related, criterion-based assessment" that signaled a move away from measuring students' performance and put more emphasis on assessing students' health. Children's individual fitness scores are no longer used as a criteria for grading in phys. ed., and they must be kept confidential between a teacher, the student and his or her parents or guardians.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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