Custer Baker Intermediate School encourages kids to get involved in as many activities as they can to explore their interest in sports.

One unique activity that stands out as a good example of a great training sport with a competitive aspect is swimming. The individual nature of the event makes it an ideal sport for many reasons at the middle school level — among them is giving middle school-aged kids a reason to get involved in school.

Walt Raines, dean of students and athletics director at Custer Baker, elaborated on why getting kids involved in sports at a young age is important.

Raines also is the head coach of the Franklin Community High School girls basketball team.

How many sixth-graders are on the middle school swim team?

Seven sixth-grade boys, 12 sixth-grade girls. The rest of the roster is both seventh- and eighth-graders.

How often do they practice?

Five to six times per week, Monday through Friday, and sometimes on Saturday.

Why is swimming a good activity for students this age?

We allow sixth-graders to participate in any individual sports. It gives them an opportunity to get a feel for being on school teams.

Most of them are already on recreation league teams. This gives them a chance to participate on the school team.

It’s not as much of a necessity to be the biggest or the strongest. Anyone can compete in swimming.

It’s more about perfecting technique, unlike some of the other sports.

Which parts of the sport are emphasized with sixth-grade swimmers?

At that level, it’s mostly techniques for all the strokes; basic fundamentals, as much as anything else.

Can sixth-graders participate in all other school sports?

The only sport they can’t participate in in sixth grade is football.

Why is joining sports teams good for sixth-graders?

We want to try to keep all our sixth-graders involved and give them a chance to participate, to make sure they have school spirit and being a part of the school team.

How does sports participation change throughout middle school?

More often than not, the numbers drop. But we want them to try everything and not pigeonhole themselves. Then as they get older they might like track more than swimming (for example), and they start to realize, ‘My strength is here and that’s what I need to focus on.’

We want to make them all Franklin athletes, not just middle school athletes or Custer Baker athletes.