NORTH FULTON, Ga. – While football tends to get the lion’s share of attention at this time of year, there are plenty of other sports gearing up to make North Fulton’s schools proud. Be it cheerleading, softball, volleyball or cross country, hundreds of kids in all schools and of all ages compete in fall sports.
“If you look, I think there’s a state championship in every sport from all North Fulton schools,” said Alpharetta High School Athletic Director Kirk Alexander. “All the sports are fairly popular in this area, across the board.”
Milton’s Athletic Director Gary Sylvestri agreed.
“While football is the pulse of the school, the other teams are absolutely huge with the students,” he said.
Sylvestri attributed North Fulton’s success in these sports to a multitude of factors.
“We’ve got great feeder programs and great parents,” he said. “They come in and give us a great base to help athletes out. And the schools have a high level of excellence.”
It’s a fair bet that many of the North Fulton schools will get close to state championships in most of the fall sports.
Cross country is something of a gateway sport for athletes, said Alexander.
“It’s a great way for kids to get involved in high school athletics, especially if they don’t have a background in athletics,” he said. “Everyone knows how to run. You may not run fast, but you can still do it.”
Middle school students in particular are eager to sign up for the chance to run extremely long distances for their high schools.
Before you start thinking you know what cheerleading is, the actual sport of cheerleading – called competitive cheerleading – bears only passing resemblance to what happens on the sidelines of a football game.
Alexander called it, “like gymnastics, but with 20 girls all at once.”
Competitions engulf the world of competitive cheerleading on weekends, with a lot of acrobatics and tumbling.
“The football cheerleading has morphed into a spirit squad,” Alexander said. “This is a high energy, athletic sport.”
However, he said many of the girls who take part in one are also in the other.
While many teams are strictly girls-only, Milton allows boys on its competitive teams, although Sylvestri said there are only a couple boys he knows of who try out for the team.
In the presence of baseball, softball is a girls-only sport.
Despite the obvious connotations of the name “softball,” not much is soft about the games played with underhanded pitches. Those girls play just as hard as their male counterparts, and it is especially popular in North Fulton.
“Softball is a sport this area has always done well in,” Alexander said. “It’s very strong up here.”
Indeed, Alpharetta’s softball team made it to the state playoffs last year, a feat they hope to repeat this year.
The indoor net sport has become increasingly popular in recent years. Another sport just for the ladies, volleyball has grown from something children play in gym class into a major competitive program.
“Volleyball is more competitive on the state level than softball,” Alexander said. “Every school in the state has a softball team, but volleyball is more of a metro-area sport.”