Despite recent budget cuts, Fayetteville-Manlius is one of two area school districts committed to keeping its freshman girls soccer team going. The other is West Genesee.
Last year, aside from each other, the F-M and West Genny teams had four other competitors, including Cicero-North Syracuse, Rome Free Academy, East Syracuse Minoa and Baldwinsville.
"There was rumor last year that freshman sports might be cut ... because they're the lowest priority in terms of sports," said Coach Tom Chaddock, also a fourth grade teacher at Enders Road Elementary. "But [Athletic Director] Rich Roy was very adamant about the fact that we're gonna try not to get rid of programming."
Roy's efforts paid off. The girls still have opposing teams, but they come from smaller schools like Onondaga Central, Fabius-Pompey and Tully, and the teams they now play are at the junior varsity level. Had Roy let the issue go, a significant number of girls would have lost the opportunity to play another season of soccer and their high school careers would have been cut short.
"Our school is big into soccer, and we get a lot of participation," Chaddock said. "Last year, we had 110 girls try out between the two modified teams at Wellwood and Eagle Hill, and the freshman team. We had a giant pool of kids and if we didn't have a freshman team that would really impact the numbers."
Chaddock, who has been coaching freshman girls soccer for three years, said the value of having this team level lays in giving kids an additional year's experience. Over the past two years, he's had 25 of his team members move on to JV and varsity level. Many players discontinue the sport after their freshman season, but many others develop into stronger, skilled soccer players who otherwise would not have made the JV/varsity cut.