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Pembroke district lobbied by soccer-playing boys to bring the sport back to school

By Howard B. Owens

Pembroke High School has no varsity boys soccer team and a group of students at the school think that ought to change.

More than three dozen students and parents crowded into the district's board meeting Tuesday night to make sure the trustees clearly understand, there is support and desire to see boys soccer return to the school.

Tina Curtis (pictured above), the mother of one of the boys who wants to play soccer for his school, presented a feasibility study that shows soccer is a lot less expensive than football and isn't likely to sap talent from that squad.

The study was requested by the school administration after a group of boys in the school began making their wishes known.

"The boys came tonight to let the board and the district know that their interest is sincere and that they would really like to have the ability to play soccer in high school," Curtis said.

The trustees will discuss the proposal at their March 22 meeting.

Pembroke, though it has a girls soccer team, has been without a boys team for about 15 years.

That robs many boys of a chance to participate in varsity sports in the fall, Curtis said, because most of the soccer players have no interest in playing football or running cross-country.

Her study found that of the 29 boys in the school who expressed an interest in playing soccer, only four play football and only one runs cross-country.

Pembroke is the only Section V Class C school without both soccer and football.

In Genesee County, only Pembroke and Oakfield-Alabama don't have boys soccer. Alexander recently started a boys soccer team.

The study notes that with league and section permission, schools can combine teams, and both O-A and Alexander officials have expressed interest in exploring the idea of a combined team with Pembroke.

While football costs Pembroke $43,000 a year, the cost of a soccer team wouldn't be much more than $6,000. Cross-country costs $6,500 and boys volleyball, $4,000, according to the study.

"The administration agrees with us that the cost of funding soccer here Pembroke is not substantial," Curtis said. "That’s not a big barrier to bringing it back to school."

The biggest barrier, Curtis said, is the decline in school enrollment, but that's a problem similarly sized schools throughout Section V are facing. Their solution hasn't been to eliminate sports, but to combine programs -- merging JV with either modified or varsity programs, for example.

For Pembroke football, the program has declined from 71 JV and varsity participants in 2000 to 49 in 2010. In both years, that participation level represented 28 percent of the school's male population. In both years, Pembroke won 70 percent of their games.

According to the study, schools with both varsity football and soccer have better football winning records than schools with only football programs.

Schools with both programs don't really compete for students, the study found.

"Holley Central School and Alexander Central School added a football or soccer program to their existing fall sports," reads the report. "In conversations with Alexander and Holley athletic directors, it has been observed that the impact on the existing sport was negligible. In the words of James Palermo, Holley's athletic director, over the 10 years the school offered both programs, the crossover was insignificant. Soccer players and football players are two different types of kids."

Gabriel Birkby (pictured, inset) said he and a lot of his friends just want to play soccer.

"We have a lot of great guys, well-rounded men who are kind of deprived of a high school sporting experience," said Birkby. "I’m kind of hoping that the board and administration see it in favor of the students so that a soccer team is reestablished here Pembroke."

He said the boys will continue to let trustees and administrators know that they are serious about wanting to play soccer.

"I think (it will take) a lot of convincing and a lot of the boys pushing toward getting a team," he said. "If there’s no push there’s going to be no pressure on the board to try and get a team in there."

David Horning

Reverse discrimination! Just like Title IX which is destroying many male sports at the collegiate level. While many of the female sports that must be funded struggle for participants.

Mar 9, 2011, 7:11am Permalink
sharon wells

My son is a junior at Pembroke and would love the opportunity to play soccer during his senior year. There is a strong interest in boys soccer in the Pembroke School District, as evidenced by the very large turnout of parents and boys at last night's board meeting. Thanks to David and Tina Curtis, Scott and Renee Birkby, Amy Howes, and Wendy Houseknecht for their efforts!

Mar 9, 2011, 7:50am Permalink
Daniel Jones

So if the superintendent makes over $200k per year, I'm sure they can find some room in the budget for boys soccer. If not, it's something to remember come the next school board election.

Mar 9, 2011, 8:39am Permalink
Renee Franclemont

My son too also attends Pembroke, as a sophmore. This issue is not of any how much our Superintendent makes, but the chance these boys want to represent their school is a sport that the love to play. I would like Pembroke to live up to their Vision Statement which states:
We Envision …
Increased Knowledge – through academic excellence and continued growth
Applied Skills – through challenging academic and extracurricular programs
Positive Attitudes– through an atmosphere of mutual respect and an environment that fosters character and pride.
Thank you to all that support our boys. They are a great bunch of kids with much talent and heart.

Mar 9, 2011, 9:13am Permalink
Scott Birkby

Daniel, I don't think that it would be productive to anybody to bring administrative or instructional staff salaries into this discussion. Our Pembroke Board of Education has procured the very best administrators and teachers for our children, as evidenced by performance.

We all recognize that funds are painfully limited at this time. This is about utilizing the interscholstic sports budget, whatever little is available, in a way that most benefits our students. One example is Modified sports. When a college admissions department looks at an application, they don't want to know what Modified sports a student has participated in. They want to know what Varsity sports they have played. Please don't think that I am opposed to Modified sports in any way, even though many of them are a duplicaion of sports provided through Pembroke Youth Association. I hope that we can retain all of our sports programs.

The bottom line is this. There is a large group of boys, experienced soccer players, who are simply asking to be treated equally with their female counterparts. It is grossly unfair for them to be left at home in the fall in front of their x-boxes, while the girls are able to play soccer for their school.

We are hoping that our Board of Education will allocate funds available for interscholastic sports in a way that is fair to everyone.

Mar 9, 2011, 9:50am Permalink
Don Lovelace

The People who want Soccer in Pembroke should raise the money themselves and go ahead and play! They should not expect the tax payers to pay any more.

Mar 9, 2011, 10:37am Permalink
Thomas Mooney

Don , Your views should go against other sports as well . If that was the case you would see no football team and a very large soccer team . Soccer cost very little compared to Footbal and most other sports . I also see salaries as an issue because that is money taking away from other needs of the school . If we keep on raising salaries to get " a better pool of applicants" , then there will be no room in the budget for any sports .

Mar 9, 2011, 11:15am Permalink
C. M. Barons

Not to sound naive; I am aware of the difference, but lack of a public-funded football program never prevented me from playing football or any other sport. Of course my friends didn't have x-boxes, internet and cable TV to reduce us to cellulite-producing torpor.

Mar 9, 2011, 1:28pm Permalink
Cecelia Lullo

Pembroke school taxpayers it's your decision where your money goes. You can choose to pay your administrators extremely high salaries when your consider the overall student population of your district, or you can decide to expand or add programs that will directly benefit your students. Soccer is one program you don't have-another example, City of Batavia Schools is the only school district in Genesee County to offer a string program and orchestra option to the students. The $100,000+ over pay the superintendent currently makes could go along way to enhance the educational and extracurricular opportunities offered. Your choice, taxpayers!

Mar 9, 2011, 2:02pm Permalink
Mark Laman

Cecelia, good point. In facing multiple cuts throughout the district, it is crazy that the superintendant got close to a $20,000 raise this year! $230,00+ salary a year for a district the size of Pembroke is nuts. People can say you get what you pay for and Mix is supposedly doing great things, but to earn more than the superintendant of Buffalo city school districts, Amherst, Williamsville, Orchard Park.... . Those superintendents are also doing "great things" at a more reasonable cost compared to tax base. Pembroke cant afford him. Pembroke will continue to be successful after he is gone because there are good teachers and good families that do whatever it takes to get the job done.

I hope the superintendant doesn't turn his back on this soccer program because he is tight with the good 'ol boys in the football program. I have been to many Pembroke football games and I respect what they have done, but I know there are a lot of boys who would rather play soccer or don't play any sports in the fall because soccer hasn't been an option.

I would rather see my tax dollars go to the programs that will directly effect the kids, not pay for Mix's next vacation.

Board of Ed., cut that fat salary in half and spend tax dollars on something that will actually have an impact on a students educational experience and development!

Mar 9, 2011, 11:08pm Permalink

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