Craig County High students apply a ‘high press’ move for a varsity soccer program

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Jay Law, Pastor of Craig Valley Gospel Fellowship, telling his story about how a son became a man and thanking all for attending.

Pam Dudding-Burch Contributing writer

Approximately 40 parents and students attended a special School Board Public Budget meeting on Tuesday, March 7, showing their support to fund a varsity soccer program for Craig County.


The budget meeting was for the 2017-18 school year. “The parents and students had also asked the community to come to the meeting and support them,” Robin Nobles shared. Nobles is the Chairman of Club Camp Mitchell and an ardent soccer enthusiast. The students were there to ask the board to approve a budget for a varsity soccer program.

“Being a part of a team, means ‘belonging,” Nobles said. “Besides giving a kid a group to belong to, a soccer team builds character, integrity and a sense of self-worth that is the foundation for a successful adult. “

Soccer was new to Craig County in 2009 but has grown every year. Four years ago two Craig County high school students, Levi Helm and Zachary Nobles, got together and formed a high school soccer club. They were hoping to have a varsity team the following year, but were told by the school district that “Varsity Status” had to be earned.

Submitted photos
Craig County plays a good game against Stuart Hall with Zach Nobles and Nicholas Tanner McMahan competing against each other.

With that in mind, the boys and their teammates played as a school athletic club for the next two years. Last year was the third year for the high school soccer club. Struggling to find enough private schools and teams to play, the students asked the School Board to consider granting the team varsity status.

Last February, approximately 60 parents and students attended the board meeting where the parents even offered to self-fund the varsity program. “Principal Stump asked the parents to be patient,” Nobles said. “He assured them that he wanted and would support a ‘fully funded varsity soccer program’ for the 2017-18 school year as long as there was continued interest and support.”

The board agreed with principal Stump and asked the Club to continue following VHSL rules to show that they could do so as a Varsity program. So, as they says in soccer terms, they had to “narrow the angle” for the School Board. The board said that they supported soccer and that it was not “a fight to get a soccer program”.  “They just want to know that the sport has the backing of the high school’s principal,” Nobles said. It was noted that many of the kids who play soccer do not play any other sport.

“The kids were disappointed,” Nobles shared. “But they pressed on, eager to prove they deserved Varsity status even after the tragic loss of a teammate.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, parents, coaches and Nobles spoke about the program and the student’s desires. The board motioned and approved adding soccer to the meeting’s agenda. Though the proposed budget already had an increase in the athletic account, it was explained that only the coaches’ stipend and some “incidentals” could come out of that.

The Board was informed that fundraising and gate fees would cover the following costs: officials, uniforms and equipment. Also, the coaches that were interested in applying have promised to wave receiving a stipend. the board said that the budget could handle a varsity soccer program next year.  They were not, however, ready to vote to approve one.

The board stated that they want Principal Stump to present a proposal to them. “They want him to state that he wants a soccer program next year,” Nobles said. “Principal Stump was unable to address his position as he had to leave before the meeting was over.”

Superintendent Warwick was asked by the Board to facilitate meetings between the soccer coaches and Principal Stump.  The board said they would be prepared to vote on soccer as soon as Principal Stump presented the proposal. Therefore, it was “tabled.”

One ‘hiccup’ over the past few years has been in having enough bus drivers for away athletic events. To address the impact soccer would have, school Soccer club coaches and Kevin Altizer, Jeffrey Hickson and Robin Nobles told the board that if a Varsity Soccer program was approved, they would obtain a license to drive the buses to the games. Someone shared, “This is like a ‘control play’ in soccer.”

One fact that was brought to light was the fact that last year the board approved adding Varsity Golf where only approximately six students participated. “It had been seven years since the School had a Varsity Golf program!” Nobles informed. The parents supported the program.

Robin Nobles commented on golf, “I think it is great to have a Varsity Golf team, I just think if four to six kids can warrant enough interest for a golf program, then surely 15-18 kids can for four years for a soccer program!”

The golf program did not have to have any type of club to show interest, nor did they have an established feeder system. It was understood that golf was a Varsity sport seven years ago. “However it seems like a double standard,” Nobles said. Craig helped Covington start a school soccer club last year after they had a non-affiliated team the year before and this year they have a Varsity program. “Our kids see this and they don’t understand why it has been so difficult for our school system to approve a Varsity program for them.”

It was explained that the Athletic budget is used to pay coaches salaries and other essential items, and since the soccer coaches applying for the position are willing to wave a salary, that Soccer could be supported with the proposed budget. Also, since the cost for officials are paid from gate sales and fundraising, it would not affect the budget.

“The board stated that the budget could handle a Varsity Soccer program and they were glad we brought it up at this meeting,” Nobles shared. “So….basically, what the school board needs is a proposal from Principal Stump showing, the number of students that are VHSL eligible who played soccer each year, the anticipated cost for officials AND his endorsement for a Varsity Soccer program (meaning that he wants a Varsity Soccer team).” The board will then vote on it.

This year is the soccer clubs fourth season. Sadly, they continue to struggle to find games due to the VHSL limits their fellow high school teams must abide by. A varsity team can only have 2.5 scrimmages each season. “Since Craig County’s soccer team is not a VHSL program, any VHSL team that plays them has to count the game as a scrimmage,” Nobles explained. “This makes it almost impossible to find more than a few games.”

The team will be traveling to West Virginia and as far as 60 miles or more just to find games this season, but are determined to prove they deserve Varsity status!

Fall recreational soccer has grown from 40 kids playing in 2009 to 70 kids playing in 2016.  Along with the high school soccer club, a school sponsored middle school club was formed in 2015.

 

Fall recreational soccer has grown from 40 kids playing in 2009 to 70 kids playing in 2016.  Along with the high school soccer club, a school sponsored middle school club was formed in 2015.

Last Spring the middle school soccer club pulled away from the school and formed 2 full travel teams. However, this year there is one middle school age travel team. “As anyone can see, there is plenty of interest in soccer and a good feeder system in place to support a varsity soccer program at Craig County High School,” Nobles said. “Soccer is not going away!”

The two boys, Levi Helm and Zachary Nobles, have graduated.  Levi is in a successful student in college and Zachary is serving our country in the United States Air Force. Even though, they are no longer students at Craig County High school, their dream lives on with their teammates….”the dream for a Varsity Soccer Program!”

“The kids were great and we would like to thank all the parents and players who came out to support this program,” Nobles said. “A big ‘Thanks’ to Levi Helm, who stopped by to show his support as well.”

Nobles and the other coaches extended their appreciation to the school board for hearing their argument of support. “Now it is up to principal Stump, who has always told me that he supports anything that the kids want,” Nobles said. “So, hopefully he will give his endorsement as the kids deserve it!” As the soccer term would go, the students are “closing down”, hoping to gain possession of a ‘Varsity’ Program.