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Soccer for SHS students was a long time coming

Published: Monday, July 29, 2013 5:53 p.m. CDT

When I attended Seneca High School (I’m a 2002 graduate), I remember some students passing a petition around, imploring the school to form a soccer program.

The effort failed, as has every effort to form a SHS soccer program before or since. With an enrollment of 471 today, it’s understandable that SHS wouldn’t be able to offer every sport to its students, but I’d imagine the school is one of the largest in the state to not field a soccer team.

A compromise of sorts was reached this summer, and I reported on it last week. SHS will co-op with Newark High School in boys soccer.

“We had been interested in that idea of our athletes being able to play high school soccer,” SHS Athletic Director Steve Haines said.

“It’s a great opportunity for our kids and a great opportunity for Seneca High School and the high school district.”

Haines says the reaction thus far has been very positive. That’s not surprising. There are plenty of positives in the arrangement.

Incoming freshmen like Tom Bartkus, who I interviewed for the story, have the chance to play four years of prep soccer. Returning students won’t get four years, but they’ll get a chance they probably thought they never would to make up for lost time.

There are some drawbacks as well. The biggest, probably, is the fact that Newark doesn’t field a girls team, though girls can play on its boys team. I detailed that aspect of the situation in last week’s coverage.

Some more minor problems with the situation include the fact that SHS students are entirely responsible for their own transportation to Newark each day (though you could argue that the arrangement is optimal for Seneca taxpayers; “We’re on the hook for nothing,” Haines told me), and the fact that they won’t be able to wear Irish green and white while playing soccer

To the latter point, Haines said the addition of new programs at SHS now and in the near future just isn’t logistically possible.

“Our board would be happy to do (the co-op), but they didn’t want to add anything additional on our plate,” Haines said. “We have a lot of things going on at the school with technology, our new 1:1 program with new computers. New (athletic) programs are something we can’t look at doing at this time. In a couple of years, we’ll see where we’re at and see if there’s a possibility.”

For Newark, the benefit to co-oping lies in the resultant much larger student base from which to draw players. That may not be its only benefit. NHS Athletic Director Carol Navarro says Seneca has qualities that made it an attractive partner that go beyond location and size.

“Seneca has good, strong athletic programs and a history of great athletes. They have good support from their community and from the families,” Navarro said. “This gives their kids an opportunity to play soccer. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.”

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