Shrinking public high school soccer numbers a growing concern

Posted 10/4/23

A problem that has been growing like wildfire throughout the country is the battle between public high school soccer versus premier clubs. It was not until fairly recently that I discovered the …

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Shrinking public high school soccer numbers a growing concern


A problem that has been growing like wildfire throughout the country is the battle between public high school soccer versus premier clubs. It was not until fairly recently that I discovered the issues that exist as multiple coaches have voiced their frustrations.

Nowadays, these premier and academy teams have become the way to go if a teenage soccer player is seeking to play at the college level and potentially beyond. Kids are recruited young, sometimes from the time they are in grade school, and by the time high school comes around, playing for their public programs is not even a consideration.

In the past few years, the question at the beginning of every high school season is: Which of your players have left for premier? Pretty much every team has one or two key players transfer over, sometimes more. These academy teams have become even stricter and there is no longer splitting time. It is a requirement for players to devote all of their play to the club team.

Is there a way to save high school soccer? Numbers have been dropping and will continue to drop as these club teams grow. I feel sorry for these high school coaches, as well as the families that don’t have the assets to put their kids in these high-end programs. Oftentimes public high school soccer is the only option available.

I don’t believe that there is a way to solve this issue, unfortunately. The only way would be to reserve these club seasons for the winter, spring and summer, but then that would be unfair to those leagues that devote tremendous resources to providing year-round services. The quality of coaching and development really is impressive.

The other option that crossed my mind would be disallowing underclassmen to leave their high school programs. If the requirement was that players commit at least two years to their high schools that would help stabilize the roster numbers. It would not totally solve the problem but perhaps slow the decrease.

It really is an impossible issue to solve because each of the entities deserve to exist, and you’d think there would be enough numbers for them to co-exist, but we’re seeing such a progressive surge that it’s becoming lopsided. High school athletics are hurting for numbers across the board, but soccer is starting to really take a hit with this new academy/club/premier culture.

This is not me trying to encourage players to avoid these clubs and give preference to high school, either. Again, I recognize and respect the work that these clubs do. They really do prepare kids for the future in ways that other sports can’t replicate. It is incredible seeing the resources that they provide. It just pains me to see these public schools suffering in the process.

I have to admit, the lighting at the Pilgrim football field seems to be getting worse, which I did not think was possible.

Since my arrival in Rhode Island five years ago, the Pilgrim lights have been, to put it kindly, dim. It makes getting photos damn near impossible, even some top-notch photographers have expressed to me how much they dread working there. It’s just a tough task to pull off.

The end zones are fine, but midfield is tough. Tough to the point that I am surprised that players are able to compete. Last Friday I was stunned at how dark it was at the 50-yard line. There were a few passes where I actually lost the ball as it traveled through the air.

What this tells me is that the city is just waiting out the new schools. Why add new lights when a new high school is likely around the corner? I don’t agree with that way of thinking, but I am assuming that is why the conditions are the way they are.

One thing I did notice, though, is that it could be an advantage for the Patriots. Pilgrim’s home uniforms are black which could make things blurry for the opposition. I do not think this was a diabolical plan to gain an advantage, but I do wonder if opposing teams see it as an issue (no pun intended).

As a journalist and pseudo photographer, the lights are an absolute pain in the butt. I’ve never seen such a dark field. I hope we don’t have to wait until the new school and facilities are built, but it appears to be the case.

Last item I wanted to touch on is the NFL Patriots. I think it is time to make a major move.

Bill Belichick has lost touch with the modern game, quarterback Mac Jones is not a difference maker at the position, and the roster is severely lacking talent, at least on the offensive side of the ball.

This most recent 35-point loss to the Cowboys should be a wake up call for the Kraft family. This team is a rotting, lost cause as long as Belichick and Jones are the faces of it. Belichick should be fired immediately and the team should be seeking a new answer at quarterback.

Now, removing Belichick will be easy. The heir apparent is Jerod Mayo and he is already under contract, but even if they decide he needs more seasoning, Bill O’Brien is more than capable of taking the reins for the remainder of the season. Although his resume is not Belichick’s, he at least has a handle on the modern day NFL. Belichick should have been let go Monday morning.

Moving on from Jones is a little trickier as he is the best QB on the roster, which speaks to how poor they are in that spot. Teams are not looking to trade their starters and the draft is not until April. The team is stuck with Jones for the rest of the year.

It’s time to hand the team over to a new coach and general manager. The playoffs are unlikely either way, but sticking with the current setup will make reaching the postseason impossible. It’s time to move on.

pitch, soccer, shrinking


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