LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Kindergarten "red-shirting" is on the rise. It's the practice of holding back children with late birthdays so they can be the oldest instead of the youngest in the classroom. But what about "red-shirting" for athletic purposes? How common is it, and for that matter, is it fair?
Red shirting happens all the time in college. A lot of college freshmen need that extra year to learn the system, get acclimated to college life, and just let their bodies mature. But, we wondered if it happen in high school, junior high, or even elementary schools?
Elston Forte played in 48 games during his four year Razorback career. In 2006, he picked off a pass against Southeast Missouri State as an 18-yea-old sophomore.
But being younger than everyone else is all Elston ever knew. He says, "I was living in Hawaii because my dad was in the military and I started a year earlier than everybody else so that always made me the youngest in my class."
Elston works for the state hospital now. He also runs a non-profit organization called the Y-AM project. The program gives Elston a chance to mentor students at his alma mater, Mills High School.
He now sees the benefits of being a younger college graduate. He says, "I feel that it's given me a head start in life as far as being exposed to the many things I've been exposed to. I feel everything happens for a reason. Maybe a year before I wouldn't have been exposed to the things I've been exposed to."
Johnny Johnson has been the athletic director of Little Rock schools the last 11 years. He thinks red shirting is more of an academic issue than an athletic issue.
He says, "I think what's going on now, Little Rock has a four year old program, and then they go to preschool and kindergarten and I think at that age parents are trying to make the decision do I want to hold him back at that time, not for just athletic purposes but as maturity purposes."
One of the reasons red shirting for athletics isn't as common is because the Arkansas Athletic Association enforces the rules in place that effects the eligibility of students who redshirt.
Lance Taylor is the executive director of AAA. He says a student only has a limited number of semesters to play sports, "You have 12 semesters of opportunity for eligibility; two semesters in 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, and 12th grade. If you repeat either 7th or 8th for any reason, you're not eligible the semester you repeat. We don't want 20-21 year old kids playing against 14-15 year olds because of safety factor."
Looking back, Elston has no regrets about starting school early. Ironically, he's now thinking about the same decision for his four year old daughter. He says, "I honestly feel starting your children later and letting them be the most mature in class I see the advantages of that but I also see the advantages of them being the youngest in the class."
We did discover "red-shirting" for athletic purposes does happen. But, it's a lot more common for parents to start their children later or hold them back a year for academic or maturity reasons.