The Jefferson County Middle School Soccer League starts this week, but one Southern Indiana program will not be involved after being refused participation.
Highland Hills Middle School had been playing in the league for two years, where its three teams have performed extremely well against their Louisville opponents.
However, the Jaguars were told in recent weeks by JCMSSL that their boys’ and girls’ varsity programs — consisting of seventh- and eighth-graders — and a sixth-grade junior varsity team would not be welcomed back into the league based on a liability concern about schools having to travel and play in Indiana.
Highland Hills boys’ soccer coach Tim Rice said he reached out to the league “several times” to no avail, even offering for the school to travel to Louisville to play all of their matches away from home.
“We have a lot of disappointed kids, especially the eighth graders,” said Rice.
“My biggest frustration is the fact that we have 50 to 80 kids that were extremely excited to play for their school and continue to be involved in making their school and community proud, but they won’t get that chance this spring.”
Despite the blow, Highland Hills has decided for the immediate future to go in a different direction, offering weekly clinics throughout the spring to work on the players’ technical skills.
“We are having technical clinics for fifth to eight graders each Friday during March and April,” said Rice. “We’ve had 55 kids show up the last two Fridays.”
Rice added they will also continue to have teams in the fall, linking with Floyd Central—where many of its players have gone on to play over the past couple of years.
Its aim is to see the eventual forming of a soccer league for local schools, with the likes of Scribner, Hazelwood, River Valley and others getting involved.
“We are working very hard to make up our own league in Southern Indiana,” he revealed.
Michelle Austin, whose son Jacob is an eighth-grader with the Jaguars and would have been playing in his second season, said she is sure that if the parents had been given an option to sign a waiver of liability, they all would have.
“In a time when we really need to have our kids involved in after school activities, it is sad that JCPS decided, so suddenly and without any warning, to not allow HHMS to participate in their soccer program,” she said.
“It was very difficult for the kids to learn they would not be allowed to play. Most of them play club ball, but there are still many who do not,” she said. “School soccer was their only option to play, which has been taken away from them now.”
Austin added that this should be seen as an opportunity for surrounding Indiana middle schools to really think about having a soccer program.
“The sport has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds over the past several years, and I believe that they would see a lot of kids come out to play,” she said.
JCMSSL administrator Melissa Burchett refused to comment on the matter when contacted by Kick It, saying they “don’t respond to these types of emails.”