Cedar Lane set to begin first season of athletics

Published 9:11 am Monday, November 29, 2004

By By ADAM FISHER / Niles Daily Star
Basketball were bouncing in the gym of Niles High School last week. Though the Niles' boys' team is preparing to begin its 2004-05 season, it wasn't the Vikings who were shooting around.
The players in the high school gym last week were from Cedar Lane alternative school. For the first time ever, Cedar Lane has a basketball team this year that will compete against other alternative schools.
The team was assembled and made possible by Jim Barnhart, a social studies and physical eduation teacher at the school. This summer, Barnhart registered Cedar Lane with the Michigan Alternative Athletic Association (MAAA). The MAAA is the ruling body for alternative schools that participate in sports.
Barnhart, who has taught at Cedar Lane for 15 years, wanted the school to join the association so his students could have a chance to participate in sports. Students at Cedar Lane are not allowed to play sports for Niles.
Cedar Lane students don't have many extra-curricular activities available to them, said Barnhart, who coached eighth grade basketball and junior varsity softball at Niles in the past. He thought sports would be the perfect way to get the kids involved.
Basketball isn't the only sport in which Barnhart hopes to field teams. The MAAA offers a variety of sports - flag football, basketball, chess, bowling, frisbee golf, volleyball and softball. Basketbal and volleyball are co-ed sports.
Volleyball and football are played early in the fall, and Barnhart said Cedar Lane wasn't able to organize teams in time to play. The goal, he said, it to participate in basketball, chess, bowling and softball. Barnhart, along with English teacher Joe Racht, will coach all four teams.
Not only has Barnhart been the catalyst in getting Cedar Lane's athletic program started, but he has worked to get more alternative education teams started in the area. When the school joined the MAAA in August, Barnhart was elected to its board of directors as the representative for southwestern Michigan.
Right now, there are 15-18 alternative schools in the MAAA in his area, Barnhart said. He is trying to encourage more schools to join so Cedar Lane won't have to travel as far to play games. Barnhart said the school's teams are forced to play schools as far away as Lansing, Grand Rapids and even Detroit.
Despite the drive, Barnhart said allowing Cedar Lane students to do something they enjoy that is fun is beneficial for them, not just in the classroom, but in life.