Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared this spring. Recently, Lebanon Catholic decided not to field a girls’ soccer team due to an insufficient turnout.
BY JEFF FALK
As the popularity of some grow, other’s wane. Welcome to the Lebanon County scholastic sports circle of life.
It appears that the Lebanon Catholic school’s administration will have a tough decision to make in the next few months: whether or not to continue sponsoring both girls’ soccer and girls’ volleyball. Given the Beavers’ small high-school enrollment it doesn’t appear that the private school can field teams in two sports in the same scholastic season.
This spring, Lebanon Catholic did not sponsor a varsity girls’ soccer team for the first time since the sport’s inception about a decade ago. Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association will move girls’ soccer to the fall season, where Lebanon Catholic already fields a girls’ volleyball team.
“Nothing has been decided yet,” said Lebanon Catholic athletic director Mike Miller. “We have surveys going out to find out where the interest is. We have quite a bit of interest (in girls’ soccer) in the sixth and seventh grades. We would like to have it (girls’ soccer) next year. We’ll have a meeting to try and guage the interest and then make a decision.”
Miller said that before the decision not to sponsor girls’ soccer this season was made, ten female student-athletes expressed interest in the sport. Miller and the LC administration felt that the minimum number of players to field a team is 13.
At any given time in a scholastic soccer game, the maximum number of players on the field is 11.
Lebanon Cath0lic also sponsors girls’ softball during the spring season. This season, the Beavers had 13 players go out for that sport, a number Miller figuratively referred to as ‘not enough’.
“Even though we don’t have a large student body, we don’t have good participation,” said Miller. “We had athletes who were capable who didn’t go out. Some of the girls who went out in the past didn’t do out this year. Maybe it was because the basketball season ran long.”
Lebanon Catholic began sponsoring girls’ soccer about ten years, right around the time some of the other smaller school districts in Lebanon County were adding it. Currently every school district locally fields a girls’ soocer team.
“As an athletic director, I was very disappointed,” said Miller of not having girls’ soccer this spring. “I’m more disappointed we can’t get the kids to participate. It seems like they’re putting other things ahead of athletics, and I think they’ll regret that later in life.
“I know that participation has dropped at other schools as well,” Miller added. “We’re getting that many sports that we’re watering down the athletic pool.”
If Lebanon Catholic decides to drop either girls’ soccer or girls’ volleyball in the fall, it will not totally abandon the one it does not sponsor. Miller said that the Beavers could enter into an agreement with other local school districts that would allow Lebanon Catholic student-athletes to compete with their teams.
“It definitely could turn out to be either volleyball or soccer,” said Miller. “It would be hard because they’re going to be competing for the same athletes. We’re checking into different things, like co-ops. But we don’t want to leave the league (Lancaster-Lebanon) hang.”
Veteran head coach Patti Hower has expressed publicly her concerns about how Lebanon Catholic’s small enrollment will affect her girls’ basketball program in the coming years. Certainly the Beavers are no strangers to small numbers.
“It’s the time period we’re going through,” said Miller. “We’re just going through a down cycle.
“Yeah, we’d like to have more students,” Miller concluded. “There’s room for them. We always want to have more students. With the economy the way it is, it’s tough for parents. Ever since I’ve been here we’ve been trying to increase enrollment.”