Could boys and girls high-school soccer programs work at Clarke?
“It could work, if we let it work,” said Mike Egbert, Clarke High School assistant principal/activities director, during a May 28 Clarke School Board meeting. “If we set it up to make it be successful, I think we could. We could also set it up to where it wouldn’t work. … I want kids to be successful. It will be an additional expense, but that’s not why we have programs. We don’t have programs just because it costs us money. Is it good for our kids? Are they more involved in school? Do they feel a sense of belonging?”
Egbert said he emailed 10 to 12 activities directors in the area who currently offer high-school soccer to ask them questions.
He received responses from four school districts — Creston, Nodaway Valley, Winterset and West Central Valley.
Egbert didn’t receive responses from Albia, Chariton and Centerville, in the same conference as Clarke, and Knoxville, which will be joining the conference in fall 2014.
For those soccer enthusiasts, don’t start brushing up on hand and eye coordination skills just yet. Egbert said a soccer program is in the “very early stages.”
From the responses Egbert got from other school districts, one of the initial concerns with starting a soccer program was it’s a spring sport that could interfere with track, golf and tennis.
“Over time, I think it’s kind of leveled out a little bit,” Egbert said.
He said he still wants to talk to officials from Albia and Centerville since the districts are in the same conference as Clarke.
Unlike a soccer ball, not all of the details are in black and white, yet. There’s still a lot of gray areas to be worked out, including the costs of starting a new school program.
For each soccer game, there must be three officials, and that costs $90-95 per official.
Board members asked if Egbert had a “ballpark, total cost.”
Egbert replied he didn’t have one yet because he didn’t feel comfortable including that information with only four school districts responding to his questions.
Egbert said officials from Nodaway Valley told him, “Their community and youth organization was very beneficial to them in getting that program started in their community. And, that’s something we’d reach out to parks and rec to just see, you know, should we use those fields.”
One possibility is to use the school’s football field, but the field might not be in regulation as far as width if the district wanted to host a tournament.
According to Egbert, West Central Valley and Nodaway Valley split the cost of their girls soccer team between the districts, including coaching costs.
This idea could possibly be applied locally if there’s interest from other school districts such as Interstate 35 and Central Decatur, Egbert said.
“I’d like to maybe poll the kids and just ask them, ‘how many of you are interested in going out for this?’ You know, how many seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshman, even some middle school kids,” he said.
In Ottumwa, Egbert said, it was a hard transition for youths to go from practicing club sports on the weekends to every day for the school district. Or, if a student is failing a class and has to sit out of a game.
Clarke School Board President Gerard Linskens said there’s a group of local Latinos who have their own soccer groups.
“I’m wondering if that’s a part of the population that we’re talking about, if they’re missing out or may not go out for other things,” he said. “The other thought is, are they even interested in a school program or are they happy with what they’re doing?”
Board member Kelly Bailey said she’s been approached by some Hispanic families who have told her a school soccer program is “really important to them.”
Bailey thanked Egbert for looking into starting a program. She said the board has asked before and gotten the answer, “It’s not going to work here. Period.”
Egbert replied the information he currently has is still “very minimal” with “putting feelers out.”
As of right now, Egbert said it would be hard to have a soccer program for spring 2014.
“I think that would be hard for next year,” he said. “I don’t want to rush the process.”