The Altoona Area School District girls soccer program is again facing a big change.
Lady Lions coach Pat McKinney tendered his resignation to the school board, which has accepted it. The school district now faces hiring its fifth girls coach in the past 10 years.
This type of constant change has probably been the biggest obstacle in bringing any continuity or stability to the girls program.
In the past several years, the school district did not even conduct interviews with some qualified candidates who had submitted applications for the job.
This constant turnover of coaches brings up some very interesting questions in regard to Altoona's hiring policies and what is best for the program. With a new athletic director Phil Riccio in place, now is the time to right the ship.
The best thing that can be done to insure that the girls get a coach with a genuine interest in developing a complete program is to interview the most viable candidates and not just hire the first in-house candidate who applies.
An excellent candidate for this position is current girls junior high school coach Jim John, who has a serious commitment to developing the program. He has worked with the girls during indoor season, has coached spring leagues and is always focused on player development. He has an excellent soccer background in playing, coaching and building up a program. Hopefully, the school will give him careful consideration.
There are a number of girls on the team who give year-round effort to the sport by playing at the scholastic level, indoor and on travel teams. The effort of these girls deserves to be rewarded by providing them with the best coaching possible by the school district.
The indoor soccer season in our area is drawing to a close with the major final indoor tournament, the Spring Meltdown, taking place this month at The Summit Athletic Club.
Immediately following the tournament, the spring outdoor travel season begins. All teams must be declared for spring travel by March 1. Most of the high schools looking to develop programs for the fall will have their players together for a spring travel team.
Several of the teams in the Blair County area are moving their teams to a more competitive Division 1 level, which will play out of Pittsburgh. This heightened level of competition will definitely pay dividends when the fall scholastic soccer season rolls around.
Nearly all the teams in the Johnstown area at the junior high and high school level will enter travel teams, including all of those in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference. Teams like Bishop Guilfoyle and Penn Cambria, also in the LHAC, will be entering travel teams to gain experience and build upon their programs.
The PA West travel schedule for teams in our area begins the weekend after Easter. Regionally, we should have teams represented in both boys and girls from ages U-10 to U-19. The 2010 season should be a highly competitive and enjoyable one.
Schmitt's soccer column runs monthly in the Mirror.