My turn: We need Juneau vs. Ketchikan middle school soccer

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I have lived in Ketchikan for more than 15 years. My three children have gone through the school system enjoying the opportunity to compete in sports and other activities both at Ketchikan High School and Schoenbar Middle School.

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I have had fond memories of watching my sons compete in wrestling at the middle school level in Ketchikan as well as Juneau. Both communities supported the programs fully and provided housing for the visiting teams. The same holds true for basketball, volleyball and the occasional cross country meets.

At a Juneau soccer event in 2001, Colin Barton, a teacher at Floyd Dryden Middle School, and I decided it would be good for soccer and the middle school programs to start up a scheduled program of competition between the two communities as school sports. Ketchikan traveled to Juneau for two years and had great experiences in playing both Juneau middle schools.

Unfortunately, Colin retired and the Juneau middle school cooperation died. For the next few years, we fought a continuous battle to convince, cajole or coerce the Juneau middle schools to compete in soccer with Ketchikan. We had promises of games if we traveled, only to be told after all the arrangements were made that the schools would not play us. We would quickly contact the competitive team coaches in Juneau and arrange a weekend of games. This was a slap in the face by the middle school administrators and was not good for any of the Juneau or Ketchikan programs.

Things got a little better. For the last two years, Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School was willing to play Schoenbar, but Floyd Dryden did not want to participate. Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School even traveled to Ketchikan. I believe all involved had a great time and enjoyed this new addition to Ketchikan and Juneau middle schools.

Late this past spring, just before school got out for the year, the administrators, teachers and coaches from Juneau's middle schools and Schoenbar Middle School held several meetings to discuss issues, which included the soccer program.

Juneau said it was difficult getting field time in the spring and the weather did not allow them enough time to prepare for the season. Juneau suggested that if the season was changed to the fall, the fields would be in better condition and more available, and they would be able to support the competitions.

Volleyball was shifted to the spring to accommodate the change and eliminate the conflict of the sports. Both Juneau schools agreed to host games as well as travel to Ketchikan for a weekend of competition. Schoenbar's coaches and principal agreed to the switch.

This September, when the soccer season was about to start, Schoenbar coaches called Juneau to set schedules. Both Juneau schools backed out and said they could not support the games. If Ketchikan forced the issue, Juneau would not house Schoenbar players and could not guarantee field time for games.

Is this any way to treat a neighboring community that has done everything to keep this friendly, healthy competition going?

Schoenbar held its season this year playing Ketchikan high school recreational teams but has not traveled nor had any team travel to Ketchikan. It's not much fun for our players who were expecting to play Juneau. I understand Juneau did have a season, and included a couple of games with Sitka. It would have been easy to schedule our games into the program, perhaps all four teams competing in a mini tournament.

I do not understand the lack of support for a school sport between two communities that have a long history of playing sports together. I think the players and parents of the Juneau middle schools should query the school administrators to discover why there is this lack of support for soccer competition with Ketchikan at the middle school level, when they are willing to include Sitka.

Juneau residents say they can always beat us. Why don't they prove it?

• William Harney is the former Schoenbar Middle School girls coach, president of the Ketchikan Youth Soccer League and the Southeast district commissioner for the Alaska Youth Soccer Association.

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