by Jim Riggs
Timing Is Right For JHS Girls Soccer
Girls soccer has begun at Jamestown High School as the Lady Red Raiders opened their season Thursday with an impressive 2-1 loss to Olean.
Though it is the largest school in Chautauqua County, Jamestown was the last (Southwestern and Fredonia are the others) to have girls soccer. But there is another reason.
“I’m not sure this program could have happened prior to this year just because there weren’t enough players,” Coach Randy Anderson said when looking at his roster which has 10 freshman among 22 players.
What helped get things rolling was the development of girls-only teams in Jamestown Area Youth Soccer (JAYS), in which Anderson has coached for seven years. He pointed out that 1,100 boys and girls competed in JAYS this year and said, “I’m a firm believer of soccer in the city. It’s not a sport of the future, it’s a sport of today.”
So it’s only natural that a girls team was added at JHS.
Most of the movement came from concerned parents, such as Dave Anderson, who got the ball rolling last year. His daughter plays soccer and he pointed out how the sport works well as a coed activity at lower age levels, but when the girls and boys reach their teens their abilities differ. That is when most girls simply give up the sport. They could continue to play on girls-only teams in JAYS, but at JHS they could only play on the boys team.
The parents group sent out letters to high school and future high school girls to see if there was an interest in a girls soccer team and more than 70 responded.
“Out of those 70-some girls only three or four played other fall sports,” Dave Anderson said. “These are soccer players; they want to play soccer. They’re not tennis players; they’re not swimmers.”
The parents group made a proposal in December to the Board of Education and the sport was approved. Then the group went out and raised money to help support it.
Everything was set to start the girls soccer team this fall except for a coach and no one within the school system had applied for the position. That is why Athletic Director Kay Gould offered it to Randy Anderson at the end of June.
“You’ve got to be crazy,” Anderson said was his first reaction. “I questioned whether I was qualified.”
But after 21 years of dealing with kids as a third-grade teacher at Ring School and seven years of coaching in JAYS and the Boys and Girls Club Indoor League, he fit the bill and accepted.
“Randy has a nice background in soccer,” Gould said. “He has the experience and understands the game. I was very happy he was willing to accept it.”
Anderson said, “I thought it was a challenge to get a program going. It’s kind of a good test for me. I’m going up against guys who are certified soccer coaches, perhaps former players who have devoted their careers to soccer and I’m basically pretty raw when it comes to this, so I’ve got a big job ahead of me.”
He added, “What I’m going to do is get through this season and if Kay is happy with me I’ll proceed and take the courses (to obtain his certification). If she’s not happy with the way the program is going, I’m going to step aside and let her put someone in so that the program will grow.”
Practice began Aug. 31 with two sessions for two hours a day. Then came something new for Anderson – cutting the 31 players who tried out down to a roster of 22.
“I never had to cut players, the players (who all played in JAYS) have never been cut,” Anderson said. “You sign up for JAYS, you’re on a team, you’re guaranteed you’re going to play half the game. All of a sudden it’s a heck of a problem. It took me eight days to cut nine players because I agonized over every single one of them.”
Also, because the sport was added so late, it was tough to schedule games. Gould managed to come up with 13, but three against smaller schools in Cattaraugus County have been canceled and she is working to fill those voids.
Of the 10 games in the current schedule, five are at home – two at Strider Field and three (including Thursday’s opener) at Fletcher School, where the team practices.
Since this is something new for everyone involved, Anderson was happy the opening game, originally scheduled at Olean, was played at home.
“Every team we’re playing has an established program, so we’re brand new to the teams we’re playing,” said Anderson, who has former JHS players Bob Uber, Sean Strong and Chris Bradley, and Rosemary Hedberg, who coached the JAYS Under-19 Girls Travel Team, as volunteer assistant coaches. “We’re as raw as they come.”
And that might mean some teams will take the Lady Red Raiders lightly.
“Those guys have to be looking at us like the Bills are looking at the Colts,” he said. But he warned, “I think we’re going to win some games. These girls are players.”
They proved that Thursday afternoon.