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Tell City, like most small-town communities, takes pride in its high-school sports teams and marching band.
As Perry County's population has aged in the last several decades, the number of students in the high school - and thus the number eligible to participate in those extracurricular activities - has decreased significantly. Tell City High School's enrollment peaked at 950 in 1972 but was listed at 486 by the Indiana High School Athletic Association last year. Its enrollment is 501 this year, according to a preliminary, unofficial total given by Principal Dale Stewart at this month's school-board meeting.
A 47-percent drop in enrollment over a 37-year period makes it more imperative than ever that coaches or directors of the various extracurricular activities are willing to share their squad members with other activities so the best performers can engage in more than one activity in a season if they are willing to do so.
For several years that happened. We recall Tim Holman playing in the band and playing football for the Marksmen in the late 1970s. Just before halftime of a football game, he would go down to the locker room and hurriedly change from his football uniform to his band uniform for the band's halftime performance.
As soon as the band finished playing, he would go back to the locker room and change uniforms again. He said he would pick up what Coach Bud George had said in his halftime talk to the team by asking other players, and George was fine with that arrangement. And both the band and football team enjoyed successful seasons.
Just 11 years ago, we recall several Tell City cross country athletes, including Chris Hollinden, Gina Sitzman and Mike Krueger, running in the semistate at Terre Haute on a Saturday morning and then going directly from there to Indianapolis to participate in the band state finals that afternoon.
Tell City's boys cross country team placed fifth in the semistate that year to qualify for the state meet for only the fourth time ever. And Tell City's band placed seventh in the state in Class C that year. So obviously both enjoyed successful seasons that year while sharing participants.
We sometimes hear of students today being overbooked with extracurricular activities. But all the students described above were successful academically. If some want to participate in more than one extracurricular activity per season, the decision should belong to them and their parents.
But we hear that such dual activity has been ruled out for Tell City band students this year. Thus the girls cross country team has only seven runners because at least one band student who also wanted to run was told she could not do so.
Forest Park, a school similar in size to Tell City, has had probably the most successful Class 2A athletic program since Indiana started class sports 12 years ago and has also qualified for the state finals in band several times. It has also routinely had a practice of allowing students to participate in band and fall sports and had one athlete make All-Pocket Athletic Conference in two fall sports, football and tennis, last year.
Everyone involved in running Tell City's extracurricular activities needs to make Tell City's participation policy as open as Forest Park's.
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