School district looking into soccer co-op request

Youngsville High School, which doesn’t have a soccer program, has students that want to play.

Eisenhower Middle High School appears open to a cooperative agreement that would allow those students to play.

But, according to parents advocating for the co-op, school district administration has said no.

“We are not asking the district for money,” parent Kellie Johnson said. “We are determined that we would transport our children to the practices,” she added. “We would take all that responsibility on. We are willing to do whatever we need to as a group to make it happen.”

Three students spoke on their own behalf in support of the co-op.

Christopher Johnson, a freshman at YHS, said that they “would like to get something started. Everybody seems to be for it.”

Alex Johnson, also a freshman, said he is running out of opportunities to play soccer through the YMCA. He spoke to the benefit of the co-op for both schools. “We would both be benefiting from it. We would be providing them more players. We would all be allowed to participate in a sport that could let us participate in college” as a way of paying for their education.

Nathan Morrison, an eighth-grader, said that he has been playing soccer since he was three years old. “(I’ve) been asked to play football. I never wanted to. I wanted to play soccer.”

Long-time Eisenhower coach Mike Decker, who recently stepped down after 14 seasons, spoke in support of the co-op as well.

“I cannot see a downside,” he said. “Is it going to make us or break us? No. A few more kids would absolutely help.”

Noting that Eisenhower is the smallest school in District 10 that fields a soccer program, Decker added, “(the) number-one thing is it gives kids (is) an opportunity to play, which is all they’re looking for. The Eisenhower soccer program has been a team of opportunities. We don’t make cuts. I just say, why not let them play?”

Board Vice-president Donna Zariczny asked Decker if additional players could force cuts to be made. “Is there any cut point?”

“I seriously doubt there would be,” Decker said.

Board member John Grant asked what has stopped the co-op in the past.

“I think probably, maybe some people at Youngsville were concerned it would affect some other sports there,” Decker said.

“That’s been the argument,” Acting Superintendent Amy Stewart said.

Supervisor of Athletics & Co-Curricular Activities James Miller said that the two schools, with principals coming to agreement, “need to go through an application process” before the co-op possibility is presented to the board and then, for final approval, to the District 10 Committee.

Youngsville Middle/High School Principal Darrell Jaskolka said in an email to the Times Observer on Wednesday, “My concern is not just the football program, but with all of our fall programs. Our student population has declined the last few years and creating another sport will further tax our ability to field teams in the fall.”

Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Gary Weber said on Thursday, “I think right now the financial impact is really based on (student participation) numbers.” While he acknowledged that a co-op would not place a direct cost on the district, “if numbers aren’t strong to begin with, that leaves numbers in a dire position.”

He acknowledged that these specific students have expressed they are not interested in playing football, but he raised a potential future concern if students who might have chosen to play football choose soccer, instead.

To address the potential co-op, Weber explained that administration will form a committee, comprised of all potential stakeholders, to review the situation and determine impact. He also said that a survey will be administered to the students at Youngsville to gauge their interest.

“We recognize Dr. Jaskolka’s concerns,” Stewart said. “We also recognize the desire of these boys to play soccer. It is important that we get the facts on the table to make an informed decision.”