Bailey Middle's Don Riehl knows what a tough call cutting middle school sports would be for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School board. He knows that feeling firsthand.
"I'm a teacher and I'd hate to see people leave because of the budget cuts, but on the other hand I'm also an athletic director and it'd be great to not see the programs go," he said.
Riehl oversees the Cornelius school's 12 sports - ranging from football and basketball to golf and cheerleading. As part of CMS's proposed cuts, because of an estimated $80 million deficit, all of these programs could end next year.
CMS would save almost $1.3 million next year by not having to pay for transportation, coaching stipends, game officials as well as uniforms and other equipment.
Never miss a local story.
The Bailey Middle Broncos' baseball and golf coach said losing middle school sports would be a big hit to the kids, knowing how important sports is to their development.
"It (sports) teaches things that are not taught necessarily in the classroom," Riehl said. "I think it's an overall positive experience for everybody - in everything from fitness level and teamwork to their social skills."
Some parents share Riehl's concern.
Jenny Jones - whose son, Brandon Casas, is an eighth-grader on Bailey's baseball team - is worried about how kids will cope without sports.
"Middle school is so hard already with the changes they go through, but at least sports help them build friendships and teaches them sportsmanship," she said. "I think it would be sad if that was gone."
Other parents, like Beth Shapcott, are more worried about some of the risks the cuts could create for middle school students around the county.
"If you take a positive outlet away, you're going to have more kids choosing drugs, alcohol, gangs - all of this stuff we try to keep them away from," the Davidson resident said.
Shapcott said her son, Brett, who plays baseball and golf at Bailey Middle as a seventh-grader is devastated about the possibility he won't be able to play next year.
"He looks forward to his eighth grade year - it's a big deal for them," she said.
Cornelius' Leslie Dueitt said her son, Kyle, an eighth-grader also on the baseball team was concerned last year when talks of sports cuts first started.
"He was ready to go to private school," she added.
Even though neither of Dueitt's sons - Kyle and his older brother Blake, a freshman at Hopewell High - would be affected by the cuts, she hopes parents who've seen their children flourish through sports will step up against the measure.
"I think parents who've had kids go through middle school sports should be the ones to jump out and say 'hey, you need to do what you can to not cut this,'" she said.
Some in the community believe that cutting middle school athletics could prove to be detrimental for the high schools in the long run, including Hopewell baseball coach Chet Greeson.
"Middle school sports are an important transition between rec league and AAU or travel ball-type situations to the high school level," he said.
Greeson said high school coaches usually work alongside their middle school counterparts, especially at feeder schools, and that without their help there would be a much steeper learning curve for players.
"It'll take a little longer to develop players once they get to high school," he explained.
But CMS is still pondering options, which include scaling down middle school sports and making them "pay to play" - which would require parents to pay a fee for their children to participate.
Many states across the U.S. charge from $50 to $500 per student to play sports. Middle school athletes in Saline, Mich., for example, pay a $125 annual fee to participate in all sports in addition to getting a free pass allowing them to attend sporting events.
Most parents interviewed for this story said that they would be willing to pay for their kids to play, raise money through their booster clubs or charge admission for middle school sporting events.
But some are worried about the implications of "pay-to-play."
"I don't necessarily disagree with it, but some of the numbers I've heard are unreal," Dueitt said, adding that she's heard of a $250 fee to play football, which she worries less privileged children wouldn't be able to afford.
Bailey Middle School's baseball coach, Riehl, said he would agree to any measure that would save middle school sports because he feels that if they're all shut down it would be difficult to restart.
"Only a small percentage of kids get to play sports outside of schools and those kids who don't have that opportunity would be missing out," he said. "I would do anything to keep the sports alive."