Faced with declining numbers in the girls soccer program, the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education adopted a policy change to allow eighth-graders to play on junior varsity teams.
During the first two days of pre-season practice in August, approximately 24 girls showed up for varsity and JV soccer tryouts, not enough to field two teams.
The district faced two options: eliminate the JV team and allow all the girls to play varsity or bring girls up from the middle school level, where there are two teams, to play JV, superintendent Gerard Poole said.
But a previous policy only allowed for eighth-graders to be brought up to play on the varsity level, not JV, prompting parents to call for a change in policy.
“Not many people can explain the logic or the benefits to that policy,” Wading River resident Michael Langella said. “[The parents] believe as a unit that allowing middle school students who obviously are able to do so, to move up to that JV level. If any of you have watched a middle school game we have a tremendous talent pool of girls in the seventh and eighth grade. We have two middle school teams, and the issue I’m seeing is to have two full middle school teams, no JV team, and a varsity team. It lends yourself to realize that we have enough players, we’re just not allocating it in the right places.”
Parents also noted that having a larger varsity team and no JV team would limit the amount of playing time some girls would receive, fearing that underclassmen wouldn’t see the field at all.
Athletic director Mark Passamonte cautioned that even if the board amended the policy, which it did at the end of the Aug. 21 meeting, it may not guarantee that the eighth-grade girls could play on the JV team.
According to New York State protocol, interested students still need to be cleared by physicians and the school nurse and pass a maturity test. Additionally, they need to attend three of the first five days of practice, Mr. Passamonte said.
Because the policy was changed at the Aug. 21 meeting, it allowed eighth-graders to attend the following three practices to meet the state requirement.
The updates to the policy, which were approved unanimously, read:
“The intent of this process is to identify those exceptional student-athletes in grades seven and eight who may qualify for an opportunity to participate in an advanced level of competition at the JV and varsity level based upon readiness rather than age and grade.”
Mr. Passamonte added that seventh-graders can only participate on JV and varsity teams in tennis, golf, swimming, cross country and winter and spring track and field, as those are non-contact sports.
The other change reads “varsity coaches may ask the athletic director to evaluate a student who is in the APP [athletic placement process].”
It originally said physical education teachers, students or parents but now only reads that varsity coaches may ask, Mr. Passamonte said.
The reading of the amendments received applause from the dozens of parents who attended the meeting.