PORTLAND – The city’s middle school athletic directors and coaches are stepping up to save seventh-grade basketball, soccer and field hockey teams.

Budget cuts were going to eliminate the interscholastic teams, which serve about 250 students in Portland’s schools, but the athletic directors agreed to volunteer their own time to coach, or reallocate their existing coaching funds, to preserve the programs.

King Middle School Athletic Director Duke Madsen said he’ll handle the sixth-grade intramural program himself, and will use the money for that position to pay for coaches for the seventh-grade teams.

Last year there were 60 sixth-graders playing intramural sports at King, with 15 kids on four teams, he said.

At Lincoln Middle School, Athletic Director Lee Freeman said his seventh- and eighth-grade coaches agreed to a pay cut to preserve the seventh-grade teams. The school already uses volunteers for sixth-graders, he said.

“We found ways to keep our seventh-graders in their sports,” Freeman said. The sports programs “were on the chopping block, but that would be an awful lot of kids not doing something.” About 75 students play seventh-grade sports at Lincoln, he said.

“I feel great about this,” he said. “Eighth-grade coaches will take a little less, but it’s all about the kids.”

The 2013-2014 Portland school budget cut middle school co-curricular funding by about $44,500.

“Our goal was to enable our students to participate against their peers from the other schools in the conference,” said Phil Darasz, Lyman Moore Middle School’s athletic director. “It is exciting that everyone has come together to make this work.”

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com