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B-A soccer interest strikes nerve

March 23, 2008
The Altoona Mirror
It began to hit home with me riding home from work, listening to callers on WVAM 1430 speak about soccer in the Bellwood-Antis School District.

All the articles in the Mirror, and now it’s on TV. Obviously a nerve has been touched. If this wasn’t something that had a lot of support, from a lot of people, wouldn’t it have just died off long ago?

As one of those who brought this before the school board, let me speak in simplistic terms: We brought this up because we thought this should be about what the kids want. Nothing more, nothing less.

If kids want to play football, they will play football. If kids want to play soccer, they will play soccer. Isn’t it about their happiness? High school is tough enough. I think we all see too many parents trying to live vicariously through their kids.

A lot of the talk has been around Bellwood football falling off. Did football take a downturn in Tyrone or Philipsburg-Osceola when they got soccer in recent years? Give Bellwood football coaches some credit. We have great athletes here, but our coaches make it happen. There’s a reason why we win all those football games, and it’s not just because there’s a monopoly on the athletes.

Now for the numbers. You need 14-16 for a soccer team. Not 40. That’s around four boys per class, three of which probably don’t play football now, so that’s a boy a grade that may switch sports, maybe.

On the girls side, this should have been done a long time ago. The school board cited financial concerns as the reason this would not move forward. That’s why as a parent group we’re planning to buy all the uniforms and equipment and will donate it to the district.

This leaves a tab of about $4,000 per team (coaches salary, transportation and cost of officials). Even with a shortfall in state funding, it’s a little hard for me to believe the district cannot find this small fee for something that has this much support.

Fear is unwarranted. The Friday night lights in the fall will always turn on the football team, and it will always be successful. The purpose of this is not to take away memories from football families. It’s to create some new ones for soccer families.

Jeff Bartlett


Viewpoint is closed minded

This is in response to Frank Aaron Pulcinello Sr.’s letter in the Sports Mailbag on March 16.

How can one person be so close-minded? His attitude toward soccer is laughable. How unfortunate it is for him to assume that soccer is easier than football.

Obviously, he has never played organized soccer, nor has he ever been a spectator at a local game or tournament. If he had, he would have realized that soccer, both indoor and outdoor, is a very physical game for both boys and girls.

The only protective gear these kids wear is shin guards that don’t protect the rest of their body if they “accidentally” get pushed, tripped or worse. I have witnessed children getting injured on numerous accounts.

As a soccer player, you have to have speed, stamina, agility and foot skills to outsmart or outplay your opponent. It isn’t about tackling a player with 50 pounds of padding or to see if you can retrieve the ball.

As a wife of a former B-A football quarterback, I know how important you may think it is that your child follow in your footsteps, and in the footsteps of your ancestors. However, a realistic parent accepts the dreams of his or her child, and instead of crushing something different, we should empower ourselves with knowledge and respect that the future is in the hands of our children.

My husband got involved with soccer, learned the game and became a very successful and recognized coach. He is a huge supporter of the game. The kids are our future. So let them decide. After all, if football is as strong in B-A as everyone says it is, then you should never have to worry about “a little game like soccer.”

Barbara Caracciolo


Football program won’t suffer

I was very disappointed to read the March 9 letter from Shannon McCaulley, which addressed his personal opposition to a soccer program being started in the Bellwood-Antis School District.

I am not a resident of the B-A school district and thus have no vested interest, yet it is extremely disappointing to read that an adult would allow his personal bias and ignorance result in his preference to see youth be denied the opportunity to compete in an interscholastic sport for Bellwood-Antis.

McCaulley’s sole argument against starting a soccer program at B-A is based on a common and ill-conceived misconception — that the football program would suffer. This is simply not true, and it would be very narrow-minded of the school board if its decision was based upon this fallacy.

McCaulley states that “less boys will play football, and a lot of the smaller, faster athletes will play soccer.”

This is simply not true and is a statement without merit. The boys who want to play football and are more physically suited for the sport will continue to do so. The addition of a soccer program would, on the other hand, allow other students in the B-A district an alternative to be able to participate in sports.

The pride these students have wearing the Bellwood-Antis name on their uniforms and representing themselves as student-athlete ambassadors to other communities would last their entire lifetime. Why should only football players be given this opportunity?

Our country has raised an entire generation of children who are getting less and less physical activity, while spending more time playing video games, watching television and other sedentary activities. The addition of a soccer program at B-A would provide an opportunity for more children in the district to engage in physical activity.

I would encourage all parents of prospective soccer student-athletes to continue to phone and write the B-A school board and athletic department in support of a soccer program.

Buddy Hann



Big cheers for Big Shots

I’ve been in Florida for the past couple of weeks. During that time, the first thing I’ve done each morning has been to link on to to read that day’s excerpt of Big Shots.

In today’s vernacular, Buck Frank has “done good!”

I appreciate being included with so many others in the series. Because of the effort Frank made to contact those who were directly involved, the series was special for all.

Following Frank’s countdown, I’m left with three thoughts:

1. The history of Blair County basketball is much broader than I ever imagined.

2. My perspective is truly limited;

3. I had forgotten what a great sportswriter Jimmy Lane was.

I now realize that so many of my memories are not only the result of what I remember seeing, but they also remain because of the brilliant portraits he presented for us the next day. I congratulate Buck Frank, Jimmy Lane, Herb Werner, Neil Rudel and all the others who have contributed, not only for this series, but for making our hometown paper what it is — the ‘‘Mirror,’’ through which we view and remember.

Tony Labriola


Enjoy reliving moments

If one lives long enough, one can actually recall living history as it unfolds.

Through the years, my husband and I have totally enjoyed being sports fans of both Altoona and BG, and in particular basketball.

We enjoyed Buck Frank’s ‘‘Big Shots’’ featured daily in the Mirror’s sports section.

It was so much fun reading and remembering many of those moments because we were in attendance for a good many of those ‘‘Big Shots.’’

Nancy Craig


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