Financial issues have led school officials to cut the men’s soccer program at Union High School for the upcoming school year.
Tommy Macon, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Student Services, was involved with the decision to reluctantly cut the program, a hard choice that he knows is a devastating loss to the student-athletes and the program’s supporters.
“It’s a loss not just for the student-athletes, but for the whole student body as well,” said Macon. “It’s also a huge loss for the students because sports is a large part of their education. Sports helps them learn discipline, teamwork and responsibility — all things that help them become better quality students.”
If sports are so influential in the education of students, then why cut the program? Three things were the deciding factor, according the Julie Hunter, principal at Union High School.
“It comes down to three things: economics, participation and commitment,” said Hunter. “I’ll give you an example on economics — it costs $200 to pay the officials, so when your at-gate tickets sales are under $200, what can you do? For away games there are travel fees as well, and when people don’t come out to support, you’re losing money.”
Macon had discussions with Hunter about cutting the program.
“I tried to talk her out of it, but it had to be done. Union just couldn’t afford it. Even though soccer is one of the fastest growing sports, it just wasn’t generating enough revenue,” said Macon. “Unfortunately, with all that needs to be paid for in the program like the refs, the boosters just couldn’t pay for it all. They can’t raise that kind of money anymore.”
Hunter also pointed out that it wasn’t just money that was causing men’s soccer to be cut this year, but the lack of support from the community as well.
“People just don’t come out to the games. I even offer my students discounted ticket prices, but people just aren’t showing up to the games and showing their support,” replied Hunter.
Past the outside support and the lack of funds generated with sparse crowds, participation on the team was another key factor.
“The students just aren’t committed (to the soccer program). What else can you do when you start the year out with 18 or 19 kids and by the end of the year you end up with about seven or eight because most of them quit,” remarked Hunter.
In 2016, the Union soccer team was winless, going 0-18, including an 0-14 mark in conference. According to statistics compiled through Maxpreps, the Spartans scored 37 goals on the season to their opponents’ 110 goals.
Though the soccer program will be gone this year, Macon is very optimistic about the future and the return of the program.
“Sports is in our county’s DNA, so I definitely want to bring it back and it’s my intent to have it come back soon,” said Macon. “Plus, I know soccer is very important to a lot of folks, not just the kids.”
Hunter is more than willing to make that happen as long as those factors that caused the cut can be improved.
“I’m more than willing to bring back the men’s soccer program, as long as the economics are right, people show up and the students are committed,” said Hunter. “I’d definitely move money around to bring the program back as long as these three things are in place.”
Reach sports editor Michael Hardison at [email protected] Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.