Top middle school athletes are ready to kick off inaugural season


IPS Athletics is set to pilot a new program for select middle school student athletes to help prepare them for competition at the next level.

Beginning this fall, IPS Athletics will put together teams comprised of student athletes who excel in a particular sport in what will be known as the IPS Trailblazers Select Teams Program.

IPS Athletics provides leagues for all IPS schools to participate in, which allows student athletes to play for their school team and compete against other IPS school teams. The Trailblazers works differently.

“The program will give select student athletes the opportunity to compete in local middle school leagues and tournaments against other high-level student athletes from outside of the IPS district, which is more reflective of what they will see as high school student athletes,” said IPS Athletic Director Darren Thomas.

This year, the Trailblazers program will feature boys basketball and girls volleyball teams made up of student athletes who attended open tryouts.

Trailblazers teams will also receive increased preparation for high school participation by holding the majority of their practices at IPS high schools, helping them get acclimated to the size and feel of high school-level facilities. Teams will be run by coaches who have played at a high level, have a passion for serving inner-city students, and have a successful track record of coaching in IPS. IPS high school coaches will also have the opportunity to be heavily involved with the Trailblazers programs by assisting during practices to introduce players to the systems and schemes while building relationships with future IPS high school student athletes.

“Moving forward, IPS Athletics is excited to expand the middle school Trailblazers program next year with girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, and football,” said Thomas. “Within the next few years, we’ll be able to point out former IPS Trailblazers who are leading IPS high school varsity teams in a number of different sports; and from there we can look forward to seeing some of these former Trailblazers participating as collegiate student athletes.”

According to Thomas, the IPS Trailblazers name pays homage to the heyday of athletics in IPS, recognizing IPS student athletes of ages past who helped pave the way in our city.

Where to Watch the IPS Trailblazers

7th- and 8th-Grade Girls Volleyball: 9 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 7, at Academy Volleyball Club, 6635 E. 30th St.

7th- and 8th-Grade Boys Basketball: 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, Warren Central High School, 9500 E. 16th St.