Now that the smoke has cleared from the fire over the idea of initiating a girls and boys scholastic soccer program at Bellwood-Antis High School, we can see that, in actuality and unfortunately, nothing has truly been resolved except that the idea has been put in the form of a possible co-op with Tyrone. And that will not take place during the 2008-09 school year but, hopefully, the following year.
This is a nice way to say that if the issue is ignored for long enough, it may go away, and the the longer it is prolonged the less likely it is to ever come to fruition.
This is truly a sad note, because it will put the school and the program even further behind in taking the crucial steps to develop a program. The saddest note is the 50 students who expressed genuine interest in representing their school may never have that chance and the option of playing soccer never exist.
A plethora of research into many other local, state, and national high school programs about the size of Bellwood-Antis has revealed that it does indeed have a large enough enrollment to support soccer. It would have truly no negative impact on the football program, and soccer boosters or athletic boosters programs (like the one at Altoona Area High School ) can go a very long way in helping support the program financially.
A field had already been secured and nearly all other obstacles the board presented to parents have been removed. It truly made no sense not to move forward with the program. The decision not to have its own soccer program next year puts Bellwood, nationally, behind approximately 80 percent of schools their size who have initiated programs.
The parents put forth a valiant effort, but the compromise of waiting a year and looking at a co-op with another school will only hurt their chances of ever having a program to call their very own.
On the road again
Spring travel season is well underway at the classic and club levels and the interest in playing competitive soccer seems to have soared as indicated by the fact that the Altoona Soccer Club registered a record number of travel teams for the spring season.
It is good to see scholastic coaches like Altoona Junior High girls coach James John taking an all seasons interest in developing his players and his team. John runs them through the gamut of developmental soccer skills and tactics while assistant coach Mitch Swanger keeps him on task.
Altoona boys coach Dave Alexander has also been working with the clubs U-17 boys squad in an effort to build for upcoming seasons and defend a coveted District 6 title. Altoona girls coach Pat McKinney has also kept close track of work done by Altoona U-19 girls travel coach Tom Zilla.
It truly will take a diligent year round effort by the girls team to unseat a very powerful Hollidaysburg girls high school squad, which should make a run into the state playoffs in the upcoming season.
It would still be a very nice touch if our area would be able to put together an outdoor tournament by utilizing a mutual effort of Hollidaysburg and Altoona. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a sanctioned tournament by the USSF, but a strong 7-on-7 tourney — or even 3-on-3 — would be great for our area and both are extremely fun to play. Field space between the two areas should not be an issue; the difficult part will be in organizing a strongly committed tournament committee.
Tom Schmitt’s area soccer column appears periodically in the Mirror.