Soccer Canceled At Calhoun High

(08/18/2003)

Dear Editor,

What does Calhoun County High School have against soccer? From the team's start in 1996 by coach Gary Buchanan, it has been an uphill battle to keep it going year to year. Last year, just when the school's soccer team seemed to finally be at an end, Maggie Bennett, a teacher at Calhoun High, applied for the job and saved the team for another year.

Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, Bennett resigned from the coaching position in March and encouraged the school to begin their search for her replacement.

The job was posted on May 21 but there seemed to be a lack of applicants. Bennett and others interested in keeping a soccer team at the high school began beating the bushes to find a coach for this year's team.

Just when it looked hopeless, Buchanan, the coach who had put the original team together in "96," came through on August 4 and emailed Superintendent Ronald Blankenship that he was interested in the coaching position. When he was told Blankenship was out of town until August 11, he tried to contact the athletic director, Tim Davis who also was unavailable until August 11.

All interested soccer players had been awaiting for some good news that the school would come through in time to put a team together and had been staying in contact with Bennett. Bennett knew their time was short and things needed to move along quickly to get in their needed 14 practices. With her help, a meeting was called for between all interested players and Buchanan.

Eleven students and some parents met on Friday, August 8. Some students couldn't make the meeting but had asked their friends to sign them up. In total, they had 15 students who wanted to play soccer. They needed a minimum of 11 players.

During the meeting it was mentioned that the 14 practice days could be a possible problem but Bennett had generously offered to supervise practice as a teacher starting Monday, August 11 and continue until Buchanan could be officially hired by the board on August 18. This would give players enough time to get in their 14 days before their first scheduled game on August 26.

Bennett said that if they needed the extra time for practice, it could easily be met by postponing their first game.

Everything was all in place. Earlier in the year, Bennett had scheduled all 18 games for the season and scheduled the officials for the 9 home games. Everyone thought the team was saved for another year and the players were thrilled.

August 11, players met with Bennett for practice at the high school. So began the first, and possibly the last, day of practice. Right before lunch, the principal, Michael Offutt, informed Bennett that they wouldn't be having a soccer team this year. Later, Davis informed her that he had called and canceled all scheduled games for the season.

When Bennett broke the news to the players, they couldn't understand why soccer was being canceled now when everything was coming together for them. They were so upset, they went in to speak with Blankenship and persisted until they were able to see him.

He said his decision was based on information given to him by Offutt. He said Offutt had told him there was not enough students for a team and there were only 4 teams in the LKC ( Little Kanawha Conference).

The distressed students explained that there were 15 players for soccer but not everyone had been notified of Monday's practice plus a couple weren't able to come until Tuesday. They only needed 11.

They said they told Blankenship that Bennett had already scheduled 18 games and asked what difference it made that there were only 4 teams in the LKC. Blankenship would not give them a response.

Buchanan showed up to talk with Davis about the coaching position that same day and was told he would have to go over to the board office about it. On his way, he encountered Bennett and told her he was sent over there in regards to the coaching position. Bennett was a bit confused when she ran into Davis a short time later and he told her that Buchanan had decided that he wasn't going to accept the position. Shortly after that, she saw Buchanan coming from the board office. He stopped to tell her that he was unable to see Blankenship and was told he would have to call back later.

Why does it seem that the powers that be don't want a soccer team?

There are more than enough students who want to play soccer. Last year, they only had 12 players but this year they have 15 that want to play.

They said that because there are only 4 LKC teams, they don't want soccer. Why? That doesn't mean a thing. They already had 18 games scheduled and the fact of only 4 teams in the LKC doesn't seem to bother the 4 teams. With Calhoun, the LKC could have 5 teams! Besides, the football team doesn't only play LKC teams so why would soccer have to?

If the board hired Buchanan as coach at the next board meeting, practice requirements could still be met.

Not everyone one can be a football player and even if you can, scholarships are few and far between unless you are an exceptional player. With so few soccer teams in the state, you don't have to be a soccer star to get a scholarship. My son, Espe Clothier, received an $800 soccer scholarship for his participation in the sport last year at the school.

I've heard that one of the reasons a soccer team is being discouraged is the cost to the Athletic Booster Club. Soccer doesn't bring in much revenue. However, if that is the real issue here, why couldn't the team at least be given the option to seek ways to finance the team instead of being given the run around?

At this time, the job is still posted but they're not hiring. Can they do this without board approval?

Monday, August 18, is the next board meeting. Please support our soccer players. Urge the board to keep the soccer team and hire Buchanan. Superintendent Blankenship can be reached at the board office at 354-7011.

Diann Clothier, Soccer Parent