Legislation, S-3221 (Codey/Barnes), aimed at discouraging student athletes from repeating a grade in middle school for the sole purpose of gaining an athletic advantage in high school — a practice known as “redshirting” — cleared the state Senate on Monday. The measure would bar students who were held back not for academic reasons but purely in order to have an extra year to grow and develop their athletic skills from being allowed to compete in high school sports beyond the 11th grade.
According to the sponsor, the practice gives those students an athletic advantage over younger players once they’re in high school, resulting in more play time and helping them catch the attention of recruiters.
“This is about making sure all kids playing sports have a fair chance and equal opportunity. It’s about encouraging them to work hard to earn their place on a team, and teaching them the values of good sportsmanship and perseverance,” Sen. Richard Codey, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “Holding a child back to get a competitive advantage is simply cheating, and this bill will put an end to that practice.”
The proposed legislation would bar school districts from joining associations that govern statewide interscholastic sports programs, like the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, unless that organization agrees that a student who repeats the sixth, seventh or eighth grade due to redshirting can only play sports the first three years of high school. High schools must be members of such associations and adhere by the rules to compete for state championships.
The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 33-1. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.