Cruiser soccer seeks growth

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Soccer is soaring in popularity in America and Groveport Madison Junior High coaches want to tap into the growing interest in the sport to improve the soccer squad at the school.

This year’s Cruiser junior high soccer program did not have enough players to field separate boys and girls teams. Instead, a co-ed team was formed and played a boys schedule posting a 4-6 record (with one game remaining on Oct. 10) despite having only 21 players – 11 boys and 10 girls.

Groveport Madison Junior High Athletic Director Michael Crace said he is unsure why there was such a low turnout of players this year. He noted the soccer program at the school is relatively new, stating it started as a club program four years ago before emerging as a full fledged team sport two years ago.

"We’re going to try and get the word out about the program to attract interest," said Crace.

One drawback with fielding a co-ed team this year is that the squad was denied the chance to play in a scheduled boys soccer invitational tournament at Hilliard Heritage.

Crace said the Hilliard tournament had eight teams and Groveport Madison would have been the ninth squad.

"Hilliard opted not to invite Groveport," said Crace. "It was a school invitational tournament for Hilliard and they can choose to invite who they want."

Taking stock and looking ahead

Coach John Manary said the combined boys and girls junior high team this year was a necessity as soccer requires a team to have 11 players on the field.

"The numbers just weren’t there (for separate teams)," observed Manary.

He noted that the majority of the starters on the team were girls and the Cruisers were competitive playing against boys squads.

"We could be 7-3 right now," Manary said, noting that a several of the losses were close contests.

Manary said the way to build the soccer program for the junior high and, in turn, the high school, is to create a strong feeder system through recreation center leagues and select traveling programs to develop young players.

"There’s an interest out there, but we need to give the players challenges," said Manary. "When they play with better players they will get better."

Manary said he and the school’s other soccer coaches are available and willing to work with the rec leagues and other youth programs to help develop talent and generate enthusiasm for soccer. He said he can offer the youth programs suggestions, including providing information on such things as how to set up practice schedules, what kind of drills should be used, and what type of skills should be taught to a particular age group of players.

"We’re more than willing to conduct clinics and get more involved in the community soccer programs," said Manary. "We know the numbers are there. We just need to reach out to them. We want to build a foundation for a winning program."

Manary said anyone interested in working with him regarding youth soccer teams in the Groveport Madison area may contact him at 668-7653.

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