TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Richard J. Codey and Senator Peter J. Barnes aimed at curtailing the practice of students repeating sixth, seventh or eighth grade for the purpose of gaining an athletic advantage advanced through the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee today. The practice, commonly referred to as redshirting, has been on the rise in New Jersey.
“This is about playing by the rules of good sportsmanship and fair competition, and not providing unfair advantages to some over others,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex and Morris). “Students who are redshirted are playing against kids that are a year younger than them, and this simply does not provide for equitable opportunity. It’s cheating, and it needs to stop.”
The bill, S-3221, would prohibit school districts from joining voluntary associations which oversee statewide interscholastic sports programs unless the association requires that when “hold-back repeat students” enter the ninth grade for the first time, they are only eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics for the ensuing six consecutive semesters. “Hold-back repeat students” are defined as students who successfully completed the academic requirements that have been established for sixth through eighth grades and who repeat one or more of those grades for the purposes of gaining athletic advantage.
“Rather than focusing extra efforts on physical training and development, student athletes are encouraged to stay back by their parents and sometimes by their coaches to buy time and that is simply not the right message to send to our youth,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Redshirting is a complex issue, but to hold a child back academically to maximize perceived athletic success in the future is wrong.”
Under current rules of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs the state’s high school sports programs, a student-athlete is eligible to compete as a high school senior provided that he or she does not turn 19 before September 1st of that school year. The rules also state that an athlete may only play interscholastic high school sports for eight consecutive semesters.
The bill passed the State Government Committee with a vote of 4-0. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.