Lacking enough players to support separate boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, Academics Plus pooled its players. The result is the Falcons are fielding a co-ed team that competes in the boys’ division.
Last year, two to three girls played with the boys’ team so they would have enough to compete. When it was evident neither team would not have the numbers for complete teams, the boys and girls decided to join forces. They are coached by volunteer assistant Gez Rogers, who coaches a club team of 16 year olds comprised of some of the Academics Plus players.
"Because of the numbers, the school isn’t really driving the team, and I’m not really driving it, they are the ones driving this," Rogers said. "The numbers have grown because the kids have asked their friends to play. The way they support each other is so inspiring and makes me want to come back."
Because of Rogers’ schedule and variables, they practice once a week. However, because of the weather, practices have been limited. The team is comprised of about one-third who is pretty good and has played a lot, one-third who have played but not as good and one-third who are helping make up the numbers. Rogers said that final third is comprised of athletes who have never kicked a ball and two to three who have never played. But, Rogers is motivated to work with them even though many obstacles exist.
"The expectations are we may not win a match, but I believe after two, three or four games we can," Rogers said. "We don’t have the variable and are playing catch-up, but the spirit of the kids will carry them. They are embracing what we are doing and saying."
The Falcons’ first match was last Tuesday against Batesville, and all 23 players participated. Trailing 6-0 at the half, they scored a goal in the second half for the 6-1 defeat. Rogers says the Falcons were two different teams from the first half to the second half.
"We haven’t practiced much, but the longer the game went, the more it looked like we were getting better and better," he said. "The second half was completely different than the first half. We were a lot better the second half."
Academics Plus faces Jonesboro Westside on Thursday.