The most recent Blair County Sports Hall of Fame dinner was a huge success by honoring those who achieved a great deal in our area, including that of service to the athletic community.
However, I believe the selection committee needs to be broader in its scope of candidate consideration in regard to the community service award.
Realizing our area has historically and proudly been primarily a football and basketball community, soccer has not been considered as a well recognized entity in the local sports community there still remains some factors which cannot be overlooked.
In regard to the community service award, I truly believe the committee needs to give consideration to a man who is responsible for pioneering soccer in the central Pennsylvania area.
Jim Fee introduced soccer to this area more than three decades ago. Every program that functions in the area today directly or indirectly was an off-shoot of Fee's efforts years ago.
Fee has served as the initial American Youth Soccer Organization director; president of the Altoona Soccer Club for a number of years; regional representative to the PA West Soccer Organization; registrar for the Central Pa. community; director of referees; Altoona Area High School boys soccer coach; initiated a soccer club at the Penn State Altoona campus and later served as the initial girls coach for the campus; and organized and initiated competitive travel soccer for our area.
If the Blair County sports community is to give any recognition to the sport at all in the way of community service, consideration of Fee cannot go unnoticed. I would implore the committee to take this into consideration for its next class of inductees.
Congratulations to Penn Cambria's Kate Reese a junior who epitomizes a talented, multi-sport athlete.
Reese, a Laurel Highlands All- Conference selection, leading scorer for the Panthers, team MVP, and Altoona Mirror girls soccer all-star honorable mention has also been recognized as Athlete of the Week for her outstanding performances with the Lady Panthers softball squad.
Next year her athletic exploits may include tackling the wrestling squad during the winter season.
A thank you goes out to the Altoona Area School District for their efforts in distributing and promoting flyers to fourth, fifth and sixth graders in the district in regard to Altoona travel soccer.
The response from the students has been excellent. The promotion enabled the Altoona Soccer Club to build up its girls U-14 and U-12 rosters. It also enabled the club to add two completely new U-10 travel teams, which is essential in building a successful and competitive soccer program for our area.
Eric Haugh was the driving force behind this project, and hats off to him for all his efforts in getting these youth involved in competitive soccer programs.
Ability to secure referees, especially for higher age brackets, has always been difficult for travel soccer in the area. This year, however, has proved exceptionally troublesome.
Several games in the spring season already have had to be forfeited or postponed due to a lack of qualified center referees. In order to overcome this obstacle, PA West needs to rethink some of their archaic rules. They will need to allow PIAA referees to cross over and handle games in the PA West.
It's only logical to think that if a referee can handle difficult high school games, that they certainly should be able to handle any club game. If PA West does not give consideration to this matter, our area may be deeply in trouble and some clubs may have to play an entire season of away games.
Hopefully, the PA West board and Pittsburgh will wake up before this happens.
Tom Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror