Parents seek school soccer

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cayden Bush runs for a goal during Andalusia Youth Soccer League practice earlier this year. Parents are working to get city schools participating in soccer.

An outpouring of community support asking the Andalusia City School Board to consider establishing middle school and high school soccer programs was met with success Monday.

However, organizers said a decision must be made by Jan. 15 for students to play in this year’s season.

A group of more than 40 parents, students and interested volunteers attended Monday’s regular board meeting and met Dr. Bill King’s pledge of support for the project with applause.

“This is a project we can’t just snap our fingers and get it done,” said King, board chairman. “We’ve got to find out what’s involved – the logistics – but I promise you, your request didn’t fall on deaf ears.

“We will do all we can to make this a reality,” he said.

Board members were also presented with petitions signed by 111 AMS students and 124 AHS students asking that a program be established.

At last count, 350 children were enrolled in the city’s youth soccer league, in which children up to age 12 are eligible to play.

Allen Woodard, a local attorney and volunteer soccer coach who acted as one of three spokesmen for the group, said the number of children participating in the program continues to grow.

“Three years ago, we had 22 to 24 children in the above 10 program,” he said. “This year, we had 60. The interest is continuing; however, once they hit 12 we lose them.”

Woodard said preliminary research shows that the school would be given 1A-4A classification by the Alabama High School Athletic Association, meaning the school would play teams such as Ozark, Enterprise, Daleville and possibly Mobile. He said a season generally consists of 20 games. Depending upon participation levels, the team could be co-ed or not, he said.

At present, children who have graduated out of the city rec league, but who are still interested in playing soccer, must play in a “travel ball league” where play occurs in larger areas such as Dothan and Pensacola, Fla.

Soccer supporters at Monday’s meeting said those “travel ball” participants will staff the new team, and those at the middle school level – while not able to play competitively against other teams – would serve as a feeder team for the high school level.

Woodard said preliminary figures show the program could be established for $8,000 – the majority of which has been raised, he said. He said Mayor Earl Johnson has pledged the city’s support in “getting a place to play.”

“Financially, it’s a doable thing,” he said. “But the kicker is AHSAA rules state the schedule must be approved by Jan. 15, so we’re in a bit of a crunch.”

David Marcum and Mark Ingram also spoke on behalf of the move.

Ingram, who volunteers as a soccer referee throughout the South, said Andalusia “has got some talent.”

“I can tell you, watching these kids, the talent’s there, and these kids are dedicated,” he said. “

Marcum said the “timing is right” to establish the team.

“They’re ready to play,” he said. “I’ve seen this movement before, and now, you’ve got to have outside funds and parental support to make it happen.

King said things like a teacher representative (which is an AHSAA requirement) and bus schedules must be examined prior to making a decision; however, board members asked to be presented with budget figures from other area schools at their next meeting, which is set for 6 p.m., Dec. 12 at the elementary school.