Residents who are trying to establish junior varsity soccer programs in Northern Virginia high schools have area athletic directors, who say they already are beset with financial problems, wondering where they would find the money, fields and coaches to support the teams.
A group of Fairfax County students and adults recently asked the school board to consider making soccer, which now is played only on the varsity level, a junior varsity sport as well. The matter is to be discussed by the school board and high school principals at a meeting tonight.
Athletic directors cite increasing expenses in virtually every area of existing sports programs, limited playing field space and a shortage of coaches as the major reasons that adding any new team, not just junior varsity soccer, is impractical at present. They also note that to comply with Title IX, teams would have to be added for boys and girls.
"The initial cost for fielding two junior varsity soccer teams would be in the neighborhood of $2,500," said Jim England, athletic director at Lee High School in Springfield. "Like most of the schools in Fairfax County, our athletic program runs at a deficit each year as it is. This year our football team (the major revenue producing sport among area high schools) grossed about $3,000 less than last year. If junior varsity soccer is instituted, the money for it will have to come from taxes."
As an example of skyrocketing costs in athletic programs, England said "a roll of tape that cost $12 in 1971 now costs $32, and kids, because they see all the tape professional athletes use, tape us everything but their socks. I watched one kid dress for football and he used so much tape, I figure he cost us $3. I told him about it, and he had no idea how expensive a small item like tape could be."
Since all football helmets must meet new national safety standards by 1980, athletic directors are trying to replace current models gradually. The problem is that each new helment costs about $46 and England estimates "we spent $1,500 in helmets over the last two years and we'll spend about $2,000 each of the next two years."
About three years ago, England says, Lee ran a varsity and junior varsity soccer program with one person coaching both squads. "It was just too much," England recalls. "It just about ruined both programs."
Athletic directors in the Potomac District, which consists of Annandale Fairfax, Falls Church, Jefferson, Stuart, Wakefield and Woodson high schools, voted against providing soccer below the varsity level this year, according to Falls Church High School athletic director John Hollowell.
"We're just not in favor of expanding our sports program beyond what our facilities can support," Hollowell says. "I think it would be kind of dumb to do so. In the spring we already have varsity soccer on the football field, varsity and junior varsity softball, and varsity and junior varsity baseball outside."
Noting that "a lot of athletic programs are financially hurting." Herndon High School athletic director Lou Pukal says he sympathizes with "the people around here who want a junior varsity soccer team, but I don't think they understand all the ramifications of adding a new team to the program."
Pukal says his athletic program costs about $16,000 a year to operate. Major expenses include equipment and transportation, and Pukal notes there are other minor costs, such as lights and rentals for outdoor restroom facilities, which mount up. "Frankly," he concludes, "I just don't think we could finance another team right now."
In the spring, Pukal says, he has all available fields in use and "the boys soccer team practices at Herndon Intermediate School" across town.
The difficult in finding coaches, according to several athletic directors, is in supplemental pay, which ranges from $600 a year for a junior varsity sport to $1,400 a year for major varsity sports, and is unattractive when compared with the time involved. Currently, there is no supplement at all for a junior varsity soccer coach and athletic directors indicate that providing a supplement would be the first step required to start a team.
However, England echoes the feelings of many area athletic directors when he says, "All of our fields are dust from overuse in Fairfax County anyway, so if we are provided a coaching supplement from the conty for a junior varsity soccer coach, we'll find the fields somewhere."