Carson Junior High basketball players focus on instruction form their coach.

Junior high athletics at Mesa Public Schools are more than a competition and physical activity platform. Junior high sports are a catalyst for student growth. The lessons learned on the field extend beyond the sports arena, shaping students into well-rounded individuals who are well-prepared for life.

John Huckelberry, district community education activities specialist, shares that the program, established in 2010, was created to provide an inclusive opportunity for all students, especially those who might not typically engage in such activities.  

"Engaging in organized sports instills a sense of purpose for students during their educational journey," Huckleberry explains. "While some students may possess natural athletic talents, they haven't necessarily experienced a structured setting. Athletes learn the dynamics of fitting in, responding to a coach's guidance, adhering to team rules, traveling with teammates, and performing in front of their peers."

Junior high athletics provides a structured avenue for regular physical activity. Whether it’s springing across the soccer field, scoring hoops on the basketball court or engaging in strategic volleys, these activities foster cardiovascular fitness, muscle development and overall physical well-being. This sets the stage for a lifelong commitment to a healthy and active lifestyle.   

Students who participate in team sports, learn the art of cooperation, communication and teamwork. The camaraderie developed on the field extends to the classroom and fosters a sense of community, discipline, resilience and sportsmanship and the ability to persevere and contributes to teaching them to be well-rounded individuals. 

For Mesa students the ability to work collaboratively towards a common goal is an essential skill embodied in the district Portrait of a Graduate, preparing students for college, career and community.  

Tony Elmer, principal at Carson Junior High School firmly believes that junior high sports helps students be part of a bigger team and that it teaches students perseverance, sportsmanship and many essential skills needed to be a good student.

“Junior high sports play a vital role in school life," Elmer shares. "For many students, this marks their final opportunity to be part of a team before entering high school. I encourage families to support their students as they engage in junior high sports. Students love it when their families are there to watch and support them.”

Each year, nearly 3,000 junior high students actively engage in sports. This is a significant endeavor that constantly seeks dedicated parents willing to coach, volunteer, and contribute to the program. Additionally, individuals with officiating experience or community members interested in forming partnerships and offering financial support are welcome to support students.

For more information on junior high athletics, contact John Huckelberry at 480-472-7267 or your school’s junior high assistant principal. More information is available at