Three years ago a presentation was made to the North Fayette Board to add bowling as a competitive sport. A few folks have informally asked if we would consider trapshooting. Soccer is a growing sport in the state, with northeast Iowa basically that last part of the state to see growth. Lacrosse . . . well not in Iowa, but it actually is the fastest growing girl’s sport in the country and the second fastest growing boy’s sport. Now that we are a bigger school, can we add athletic opportunities for our students? A few folks have asked that question, and being a parent of a child who really enjoys one of the sports mentioned above having played soccer since he was in 1st grade, I too have a vested interest in some expansion. However, before we jump in and start adding, there are some things to consider.
Obviously cost is a factor. There is no getting around it with school budgets being what they are. The financial obligation goes pretty deep and for some sports, costs can add up quickly. Some of those costs come from the activity fund and others from the general fund, including coach’s salaries and transportation. Depending on the number of events and trips, just those two costs will easily exceed $10,000 annually. Throw in uniforms, equipment, possible maintenance, insurance, and other costs and it can become a significant amount of money to start up and sustain a program. One sport that has not been mentioned, but is one that is growing at the collegiate level and at high school on the west coast, is girls wrestling. From a cost perspective, that would likely be on the lower side because most of the high priced items needed for that sport are already in place.
Another consideration is whether NFV can be competitive if the sport were to become part of our program. Some folks will say that “winning isn’t everything,” and I am fine with that. But at the same time, unless a team is competitive, it can be very demoralizing and could very easily lead to the quick demise of the sport. Schools that add sports often phase them in, sometimes scheduling only junior varsity contests for a couple of years in order to develop the program. One of the best volleyball programs in the nation, St. James Academy from Kansas opened around ten years ago. They started with a 9th grade program and moved into a junior varsity schedule the second year. It was only in year three that they entered varsity competition. They did that with all of their sports, including baseball where they have already won multiple state titles.
Related to being competitive, in my opinion it is imperative to have a strong feeder program. In this day and age, you cannot have a “high school only” team. You have to have a strong youth program. If NFV were to add soccer, there has to be a strong youth program in place and students ready to play at the high school level who have played for five or six years. That is what is in place in other sports, and in order to be competitive as mentioned above, it is imperative. At the present time, there is a growing youth soccer program in our community and should it expand so that kids can play up through middle school, then there would be a foundation of student-athletes with experience in the sport that can play.
A final consideration, and this may be more personal than others, is that if additional activities were added, there must be a broad base of support. Different sports require different numbers of participants. Regardless, it does not make sense to add a sport if there would have to be heavy recruiting to field a team. More important, to sustain a program going forward, more than “just enough” would have to be interested.
This conversation will eventually come around and it is important that different aspects of the issue are put on the table. There is more to it than having a few folks interested in having a new opportunity.