Blair boys soccer cuts two-thirds of those who try out, a freshman team would help
Players huddle around Coach Douglas Jiminez in a circle as he announces a stream of numbers, revealing the players who made the junior varsity boys soccer team. Once their number is called they’ve made the cut. In less than two minutes all spots have been filled. The remaining players enter their first quarter of high school with slashed dreams and no established community.
Two-thirds of the student-athletes who try out for Blair boys’ soccer are cut, and with only 50 total spots on the junior varsity and varsity squads, freshmen are the least likely to make it onto the team.
The need for a freshman team is apparent as it would give 20-25 kids a chance to play soccer who would normally have not made the already hyper-competitive junior varsity team. They would enter highschool with a community and friends to rely on. MCPS has failed to provide a proper solution for these students.
“It’s not a matter of want, it’s a matter of can”
The process for creating freshman teams is complicated. Coach Coyle focuses on one limitation: practice space. “So let’s say there is a freshman team…. That’s one more team that has to have practice time and game time,” she says. Several varsity sports teams, including field hockey who practices five miles north of Blair on Wednesdays at MLK Jr. Recreational Park, are not afforded field time every day of the week. Blair’s athletic director Rita Boule explains the problem. “It’s not a matter of want, it's a matter of can,” she says.
And many don’t believe that a freshman team is necessary. Coyle argues that freshmen have plenty of options and refers all cut freshmen to Blair’s Cross Country coach. “They now have a program that they can be in for four years,” she says.
But students want to play the sport they love. Cross country might be a way to stay active, but it is an inadequate replacement for soccer. Sophomore Alex Lalonde, who was cut twice from Blair soccer, when asked if he wanted to join cross country, said no. He instead opted to continue playing soccer outside of school.
Another complication is competition. Coyle worries whether other schools could provide opponents. “Who would [the freshmen team] play against?” she asks. Blair could easily field a third team, but other schools may not have the ability.
However, some schools in MCPS cut enough players to field a freshman team. Churchill, BCC, and Richard Montgomery each cut over 50 players for their junior varsity teams.
Freshmen are most in need of the community JV sports provide. Blair junior varsity coach Douglas Jimenez explains the support that he and the team offer. “[Freshmen on the team] make friends before coming into their first classes. They already have a network that they can rely on. They have me watching their grades, they have me telling them what they can do about their classes, giving them suggestions, and that’s not really something that a lot of freshmen have,” says Jimenez.
For many, soccer can be an outlet to help manage the stressful transition to high school. Senior boys varsity soccer defender Sohccem Ruphael describes the impact the team has had on him. “My friend group today was influenced by my JV team... Soccer had a big impact on my transition from middle to high school,” he says.
Creating a freshman team would also allow coaches like Coyle and Jiminez to help freshmen build up their skills to join the team in the future — a win-win. “It would be beneficial to a school like Blair because then we would have more players in our program and we can start developing them from their ninth grade,” Coyle says. Lalonde voices his support. “I would have had the chance to play and grow my skills,” he says.
If MCPS created a round-robin freshman league with Blair, Churchill, Richard Montgomery, and B-CC, freshman teams could take their first step. Just these four teams would allow almost 100 students to play soccer for free and would push the idea of freshman teams further towards an established reality.
Alternatively, Blair PTSA could partner with other schools’ PTSAs and fund a club team affiliated with Blair but not funded directly by MCPS. This looser structure would allow schools with a limited number of cut freshmen to join other schools’ club teams. Northwood freshman cut from their soccer team, for example, would be able to participate on Blair’s freshman club team.
Hopefully, MCPS will set an example and show other counties the benefits of freshmen teams. As a community at Blair and throughout MCPS, students and parents have to spark this change. The long bureaucracy process of adding an athletic team and other roadblocks may seem daunting, but if community members push for freshman teams, MCPS will have no choice but to implement them. Petitioning key figures around MCPS like athletic directors, superintendents, coordinators, and principals can create a tangible solution. It's a matter of need, and MCPS needs to do more than just “want” the team, they must create the team.
Silvan Unger. What's up! I'm Silvan [he/him], and I'm a writer for SCO. In my free time, I enjoy wrestling, white water kayaking, serving as class president, and theater. If you know any card games, I promise you I will beat you in all of them More »