Cape Henlopen High School will set up the only freshman boys soccer team in Kent and Sussex counties from the 2021/22 school year thanks to a unanimous vote by the school committee on July 22nd.
When applying for approval for the extra team, Cape High’s assistant director Tim Slade said that an average of 20 players a year have been eliminated from the boys’ soccer team over the past five years.
“If we can keep these players and give them the opportunity to play, the program could develop more players, which is excellent,” said Slade.
Slade said coach Patrick Kilby told him he had a list of 66 players, including 28 newbies, who are interested in playing. If all 66 try, Kilby would have to cut 26 players, Slade said. Last year’s college and junior college teams each had 20 players, he said.
The freshman class could be Cape High’s largest yet, Slade said, and since middle school sports were canceled last year due to the pandemic, all high school sports will have an influx of freshmen eager to play again. The expected cost for the freshman team is $ 5,000, he said.
Sporting Director Kevin Smith said the freshman team was the only downstate; seven schools in New Castle County have freshman soccer teams. Games are played at home and away, he said.
Board member Janet Maull-Martin said she was in favor of freshmen teams but wasn’t so sure if one was needed for boys’ football. “I’m just being honest,” she said.
Cape High had freshman basketball and soccer teams, Smith said, but soccer didn’t have the numbers for a freshman team last year.
Superintendent Bob Fulton said all sports can request a freshman team if the number of students interested indicates a need.
“From my point of view, if so many students want to play, especially in the last year … I think it is worth giving these opportunities,” he said.
A freshman soccer team would free up spots on the junior varsity team, board member Jessica Tyndall said, and students who couldn’t play travel soccer for financial reasons would have more options.
Football is one of, if not the most popular, sports in the world, Tyndall said, and participation in the field is skyrocketing. Students do better socially and academically when they play on a team, she said.
President Alison Myers said that exercise enables students to feel connected, and having 20-25 more children connected to something is key to good mental health.
Maull-Martin said she understood Myers’ point of view, but a whole group of children who couldn’t afford a travel ball would be left out.
“And I’m going to say this – kids who look like me – who won’t be able to be part of the freshman football team,” said Maull-Martin, who is Black.
Tyndall said that was exactly her point as to why the freshman team should be formed.
Kilby said 25 aspiring newbies have taken summer training courses. The exercises will officially begin on August 16, and the first three days will be trial workouts, he said. Then coaches evaluate the players and assign them to the cadres. Normally there are no more places available on the team at the beginning of the school year because the players have already done three weeks of work, he said.
“I am sensitive to your need for people who look like you, to exercise and participate at all levels,” said Kilby, turning to Maull-Martin. “We are a very diverse program and I am very happy about it. I am proud of that. All interested parties are cordially invited to get in touch. “
Maull-Martin questioned Kilby and said, “How many minorities of the 66 players do you have here – how many are minorities – and I’ll say mostly African American?”
One player is African American, Kilby said. Although not asked about the participation of other minorities, Kilby said that Hispanic students make up the largest minority on the team.
Board member Bill Collick suggested trying freshmen after the start of the school year; Fulton agreed. All aspiring freshmen will be informed of exercise and trial dates, Slade said.
Board member Janis Hanwell said that anything Kilby does to go into the community and recruit players from all areas of the district should be shared with the board. “We want to know,” she said.
Fulton said he would like to know more about what all the teams are doing.
“Football is here tonight to ask about a freshman team,” said Fulton. “You shouldn’t have to do anything that nobody else does. We should all do that. So let’s talk more generally about all of our sports and what they are doing to recruit other students and encourage students to play what would not normally be played. “
That’s a topic of discussion for the county sports committee, not just football but the county as a whole, Fulton said.