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March 23, 2011 - 4:45pm

Drive to bring soccer back to Pembroke pitched to a new committee

posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, pembroke, soccer, Pembroke Central School District.

Adding boys soccer to Pembroke High School's fall sports line-up needs more study -- that was the request of a couple of speakers at Tuesday's school board meeting and the decision of the board.

The board will appoint up to 16 people to a new committee to study the issue. The committee will include coaches, parents and students representing interests in not only soccer, but football, volleyball and cross-country.

The primary concern of those opposed to adding soccer is that it will detract from, if not lead to the elimination of, other sports.

Elizabeth Gabbey said if Pembroke was a Class A sport, she would fully support adding soccer and even be at all the games, but with declining enrollment in Pembroke, a Class C program, she fears even the football program could die if competing for athletes and support with soccer.

 "Are we willing to risk our football program or our volleyball program by adding a fourth sport?" she asked. "If we lose our football program, what will happen to football cheerleaders? This is an impact that not is just adding a team."

She added that boys who play soccer have club teams they can join, which still provide a path to college sports, but that's not an option open to football players.

One of the football coaches, and a teacher at Pembroke, spoke against the way the issue has been handled to this point, implying that soccer supporters were trying to push through the program without giving opposition voices a chance to raise concerns.

"I also wish to express the opinions of the thousands of concerned and unpretentious residents of this community who chose not to provoke others to bias the democratic decision making here at Pembroke with an intimidating show of force," Matthew Peterson said.

"I simply wish to have this statement read aloud to illustrate on record that many others disagree with both the means and the ends of adding an additional fall boys' sports program, and I choose to do so without the media hoopla and disruptions that surely accompany the throngs of people incited to be here tonight."

Peterson also took issue with the idea that soccer playing boys don't have an option at the high-school level in Pembroke.

"The most misunderstood idea centered on soccer is that students here greatly desire to play soccer and are being denied," Peterson said. "That assumption is entirely false! Soccer does exist here and students do have the opportunity to play from ages 5 to 19 in the spring season through PYA.

"The argument and the hidden agenda is to add another soccer team to compete in the fall, funded by the school district, and competing with and drawing from a dwindling student population. Let us not lose sight of the reality that soccer already exists at Pembroke."

(Read Peterson's full statement here)

Scott Birkby said he's coached both football and soccer in the district for years and knows pretty much all the boys who play either football, soccer or both, and when this issue came up, he surveyed the players to see if a boys soccer team in the fall would hurt football.

"I don't have proof," Birkby said. "I don't have the boys signatures, but I can say from my research, the net impact for the short term would be a total of only three players."

Birkby suspects volleyball might be the sport eventually phased out, which may happen anyway because of declining enrollment and the lack of nearby teams from similarly size schools. 

He said the team must often travel two and three hours for matches against larger schools.

"It's not a very successful program," he said.

Tina Curtis (dark hair in the middle of the top photo) and Rene Birkby, parents who have been leading the effort to reinstate soccer, said they were taken aback by the opposition.

Curtis said the soccer-supporting group is ready to do what it takes to ensure the program is not a financial drain on the district.

"These boys are not asking for fancy new equipment or jerseys," Curtis said. "They’re willing to donate soccer balls and wear old uniforms. They’re only desire is to play soccer and represent their school. We are willing to work with the district to raise the funds to offset this program."

Superintendent Gary Mix (inset photo) applauded the parents for thoroughly and honestly studying the issue and the students for showing leadership in bringing it forward. But he said, inevitably, somebody is going to be disappointed by whatever decision is reached.

"Any direction we go from this point forward is going to be a challenge," he said.

The district is facing a number of difficulties with declining enrollment and state budget cuts.  

Only a small minority of schools of Pembroke's size can run successful programs in all of its sports, and success is important, he said.

"It's easy for us as adults to believe that the important thing is not winning or losing, but rather students having fun," Mix said. "That's true to an extent, but a big part of the fun is experiencing success."

Renee Franclemont
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I would like to congratulate our young men, parents, coaches, staff and Pembroke School Board for their continued effort to reinstate boys soccer at the High School level. In words of a great soccer player. “No-one gets an iron-clad guarantee of success. Certainly, factors like opportunity, luck and timing are important. But the backbone of success is usually found in old-fashioned, basic concepts like hard work, determination, good planning and perseverance.” Awesome job boys.
Mark Laman
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I applaud the efforts of these families and boys for showing such strong support for this soccer program initiative. It is a shame a few individuals are trying to make this personal. Mr. Peterson's comments are offensive and ignorant. He claims he is making these statements as a community member, not a football coach or a Pembroke teacher... But he IS still a football coach and a teacher and by making statements such as he has so blatantly put forth last night he has really made it clear he does not have students or families best interests in mind. These boys do not have a true opportunity to play soccer and represent their school through PYA. It is a great program and it has provided players with a fantastic base to work from but they are not viewed as representing Pembroke, no picture in the yearbook, no recognition at the school, no senior day and last I checked colleges are not recruiting players from pick-up community teams. It was clear these players and families want more from the district they love. I also was frustrated by the fact these family's integrity was challenged. If they want change and they have facts to show they have support, then showing up to the board meeting in-mass is absolutely the correct way to move forward. This was not a move of aggression or intimidation, this is the part of democracy where people have a chance to voice their opinions and encourage the representatives that they voted into position to recognize the validity of their request. "The silent majority" also had just as much of a chance to go to this board meeting and they didn't. As far as I am concerned that makes the families in support of soccer the majority, not the minority. Throughout this process, and I have been following it over the past 10 years, no one has attacked the football program or the coaches or the Pembroke staff. Why now does an individual with a chip on his shoulder feel the need to attack the families of the same students that attend his class? Say what you want, this man is not looking at the facts, the pure number of boys that were at that meeting, the low cost of startup of this program and the fact that it really won't make that big of a difference to his beloved football roster. The bottom line is there are MANY boys and tax-paying families that want a soccer program. There are plenty of kids that play PYA and have years of experience. There are many of these soccer players who do not play football and would rather play the sport they love. The answer is simple, this program needs to move forward and I wish those families and students best of luck.
Lynette McGiveron
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I have attended both board meetings where implementing a boys soccer team at Pembroke was addressed and I would like to commend the whole entire group. Parents as well as the students representing their case for soccer have done so in a very courteous and respectful manner. I would like to add that the passion for soccer at Pembroke is nothing new….it has existed for years. In fact it was brought to the board a few years ago by a very honorable student who was well aware of the passion and interest that his peers and classmates had regarding boys soccer. That student was a football player as well as soccer player. He knew first hand what is was like to have passion for the two sports. The consistency and intensity of that desire still exists. This has been a topic discussed by parents and kids among themselves for years. The interest is STILL very strong. Pembroke is one of the few schools in our area who do not field a boys soccer team. Bringing a boys soccer team to Pembroke would not only give an opportunity to the kids but to the school as well. We would be more in line with other schools athletically and we would be allowing growth as well as opportunity for our students. Pembroke students have always supported each other in all sports. I’m quite confident that such pride and support would filter through to a newly implemented soccer team just as it has with all sports thus far. Football and soccer should not be pitted against each other but rather supported by each other…as that is one of the many strengths and characteristics of our school that I have always taken pride in.
Mark Janofsky
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"Only a small minority of schools of Pembroke's size can run successful programs in all of its sports, and success is important, he said." Besides cost savings, this is another reason Genesee County should have only one school district.
Howard B. Owens
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Even if there was one school district, there would be multiple high schools, each in their own class. Unless you're suggesting there only be Batavia High, one school for the whole county.
Amy Platten
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I applaud the efforts of these families and boys for showing such strong support for this soccer program initiative. A lot of boys in grades K - 6 enjoy playing soccer in the PYA program. They should have that opportunity when they get into grades 7 - 12. Football and soccer should not be pitted against each other but rather supported by each other…as that is one of the many strengths and characteristics of our school that I have always taken pride in.

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