Walnut Township schools passes on great opportunity
The Walnut Township school board passed on a great opportunity to get more kids involved in extra curricular activities last week. At their November 18 meeting, the school board voted down a proposal to add a high school soccer team to next year's fall sports offerings. The proposal was that the Walnut Township Soccer Association would fund the start up costs and all other expenses, minus the coach's salary, for the first three years of the program. Therefore, adding soccer would have cost the district very little compared to other sports.
One of the concerns that were raised during this process was that the district would not have enough students to support a soccer team now and in the future. A survey that was conducted by the school board showed that soccer would have very little effect on any of the other fall sports. The survey also showed that soccer would pull most of its players from the pool of students who are currently not participating in any activities. One of the questions on the survey was "Please put a checkmark beside the activity you would participate in next fall if you could only participate in one activity." The results of this question showed that all fall sports numbers would be relatively unchanged from the current year. However, there were 29 students who chose soccer and the number of students who would participate in no activities dropped from 87 in the current year to 43 next year. The survey showed that by adding soccer we could have increased the level of participation from the current 41% to 58% next year.
In my opinion, the purpose of an athletic program at the high school level is to get as many students involved with extra curricular activities as possible, so that they may experience the fun and learn the positive lessons that those activities provide. Soccer is a growing sport in communities all around the country and is the number 1 sport in the world. As part of our research in presenting this proposal to the school board, we interviewed athletic directors from several school districts in the area that were close in size to Millersport. Everyone we spoke to indicated that soccer had very little effect on the other sports especially football. They also indicated that their soccer programs were thriving and growing. Liberty Union just a few weeks ago voted to add a girl's soccer team next fall because their numbers have been growing steadily.
I believe the main reason that the school board voted down the soccer proposal was out of fear that it would hurt our already struggling football program. I don't believe that it would because most of the students who would play soccer would not play football anyway. The key to improving the football program is NOT keeping soccer out. I believe the key is to make it a positive experience so that those kids who start out playing and loving the game of football will continue to play into their high school years.
Many school districts have football and soccer programs that co-exist and even thrive together. Our neighbors at Liberty Union are a good example of this and I believe that our district could be one as well. My hope is that the school board and the community will have an open mind when we bring the soccer proposal to them again. Our goal is to give the students who love the game of soccer the opportunity to play for their high school and their community.
Anyone interested in playing soccer next spring and\or next fall can contact me at (740) 503-3488. The Walnut Township Soccer Association has recreational league soccer teams from preschool to high school. Glen Heileman Millersport