Eatonville MS has new direction for athletics

By joining the Plateau Middle School League, EMS is now shifting its geographic focus away from “I-5 schools” to rural schools.

By joining the Plateau Middle School League, EMS is now shifting its geographic focus away from “I-5 schools” to rural schools.
Eatonville School District

Eatonville Middle School is undergoing exciting changes as it prepares to join a new league and expand its athletic offerings.

The decision to make these significant alterations was driven by two primary factors: increasing concerns within the current league and a desire to strengthen the dedication to middle school athletics within the school district. With this strategic move, EMS aims to provide enhanced opportunities for student-athletes and join a middle school athletic league that provides much for the community’s competitive spirit.

The transformation was set in motion when two schools, Keithley Middle School and Ford Middle School, announced their departure from the Seamount League. This departure would have resulted in a substantially smaller league, making it less competitive and engaging for EMS. Furthermore, three additional schools — Yelm, Ridgeline, and Pioneer — also sought alternative possibilities.

Although EMS explored the option of joining forces with these schools, it ultimately proved unfeasible due to numerous challenges.

The decision to pursue a change allowed EMS to break away from the Seamount League and avoid potentially being one of only four remaining teams. Unfortunately, the other three schools that initially sought new leagues were unable to secure a change, as well, and will remain in the Seamount League.


By joining the Plateau Middle School League, EMS is now shifting its geographic focus away from “I-5 schools” to rural schools like Sumner, Bonney Lake, Enumclaw, and Orting.

The Plateau Middle School League currently comprises the following schools:

• Columbia/Surprise Lake Middle School: 875 students (Fife School District; junior high and middle school split)

• Orting: 660 (Orting)

• Glacier: 970 (White River)

• Lakeridge: 723 (Sumner-Bonney Lake)

• Mountain View: 865 (Sumner-Bonney Lake)

• Sumner: 704 (Sumner-Bonney Lake)

• Thunder Mountain: 493 (Enumclaw)

• Enumclaw: 489 (Enumclaw)

• Keithley: 824 (Franklin Pierce; current SMSL)

• Ford: 966 (Franklin Pierce; current SMSL)

• Eatonville: 425 (Eatonville; current SMSL)

The league change also prompted EMS to introduce boys soccer and baseball to its athletic program. The new league plays some of their sports in different seasons, as well. Football and cross country will now be in the spring, while baseball and track will be played in the fall.

That decision by Plateau League teams was fueled by the increasing scarcity of officials in some sports, which has posed a significant challenge for schools across Washington. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) have reported that the ratio of officials to athletes in Washington is at its lowest point on record. This shortage significantly affects various sports, including football, basketball, volleyball, and wrestling.


EMS encountered the impact of the officials’ shortage firsthand when the end-of-season wrestling tournament, hosted by Eatonville, had to be canceled with only two days’ notice due to a lack of qualified referees. The middle school was able to salvage a tournament, although very much reduced in attendance by Seamount League schools.

Although the addition of boys’ soccer and baseball at EMS does not directly address the issues faced in wrestling, their season alignment is a product with the widespread challenges in securing officials for various sports.

Under the revamped athletic program, football will be moved to the spring season, while track will shift to the fall. Baseball, a new addition to Eatonville Middle School, will be played in the fall, and boys soccer, also new to EMS, will be part of the Winter 1 season, spanning from November through January.

These season swaps have been implemented by numerous leagues to address concerns surrounding officials and field/facility availability. EMS was already scheduled to make a similar season switch as part of the Seamount League before its league change.

Jay Cash, the athletic director at Eatonville Middle School, expressed enthusiasm about the changes and the addition of baseball and boys soccer. He highlighted the positive impact that middle school athletics can have on students’ lives, particularly during challenging pre-teen years. According to Cash, participating in sports offers various benefits, including regular exercise, learning to work with others, and improved academic performance through academic standards required for participation.

Research supports the link between physical activity and academic achievement. A study conducted by the University of Kansas revealed that student-athletes had higher GPAs and a 10% higher high school graduation rates compared to non-athletes. Although the exact mechanisms behind this correlation are not entirely clear, increased blood flow to the brain and the presence of coaches who foster a sense of accountability and care for students might play roles.


In a survey conducted during the 2021-22 school year, 89 students at Eatonville Middle School expressed interest in playing baseball. The students independently created a self-directed petition, demonstrating their passion and commitment to participating in baseball and soccer at EMS, guided by EMS coaches and mentored by Eatonville High School coaches. The District Coaches union has been pivotal in supporting the students’ aspirations and advocating for the necessary support and resources.

Addressing questions concerning Title IX compliance, Eatonville Middle School currently offers two boys-only and four girls-only sports. However, with the introduction of co-ed offerings, the number of sports available to girls exceeds those available to boys. This ensures that the middle school remains well within the guidelines established by Washington state and federal requirements and guidelines.

As Eatonville Middle School embraces these changes and enters a new league, it is poised to provide an enriched athletic experience for its students. By expanding its sports program and offering opportunities in baseball and boys soccer, EMS aims to empower its student-athletes both on and off the field. Through the support of dedicated coaches, the cooperation of the District Coaches union and the commitment of officials, Eatonville Middle School is excited to embark on this new chapter in its athletic journey.


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