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