Greene Co school board gives conditional okay for soccer

The Greene County Rams will field soccer teams next spring if the school board and community volunteers can find funding.

About 30 parents and nearly that many soccer players attended the April 19 school board meeting to encourage the board to give soccer the go-ahead. After 25 minutes of discussion the board unanimously approved a motion to approve soccer dependent on answering “budgetary concerns”.

Board members Steve Fisher and Teresa Hagen, athletic director Dean Lansman and three parents will meet to develop a budget, including the potential for parent-driven fundraising to cover initial expenses. The board hopes to have a recommendation from the committee in time to make a final decision at the May meeting.

Carl Behne and Shannon Black spoke on behalf of the parents. Behne and Jeff Schroeder formed the Greene County Soccer Club four years ago. According to Behne, there are now 56 players playing on teams U8 (under 8) through U14-15. There are 61 players on Jefferson park and recreation department teams, for a total of 117 youth soccer players.

Behne says club soccer has been successful due to the energy of the players and their passion for soccer.

“Soccer is a growing sport in Jefferson, in our state and in the country. It’s a great opportunity for our kids to be active, to be involved in a team sport…. We view it as not only as a great asset for our current students but as an attraction for future families coming into our community,” Behne said.

Shannon Black said there are 18 players on the U15 team her husband Chad coaches, showing there are enough players to support a program at the high school.

AD Lansman provided estimated costs to start a soccer program based on information from other athletic directors. He estimated $7,000 to $10,000 for goal posts, between $9,000 and $10,000 per team for uniforms, and another $4,000 for equipment.

Annual costs would be about $17,000 to $29,000, depending on whether there were girls and boys teams at both the varsity and junior varsity levels.

Lansman shared participation numbers for 12 area schools that have soccer programs. Of them, five are in the Heart of Iowa Activities Conference. Roland-Story girls play on the Ballard team, just as Greene County girls now play on the Boone team.

Superintendent Tim Christensen provided costs for the athletic programs now in place. His costs were for grades 7-12, so difficult to compare to the costs of soccer, which would be only at the high school level.

During the discussion there was no mention of whether participation in track and field or golf would decline with the addition of soccer as a spring season.

Behne said he would volunteer to coach the first season or two if paying a coach made the difference in having or not having the program, and Black said parents would raise funds that could be used to match Community Foundation and/or Rotary grants to cover equipment costs.

Dr Steve Karber, who was co-chair of the committee working toward passage of the bond referendum last September, asked if soccer costs would come from the school’s general fund. Christensen answered that coaches’ salaries and transportation would come from the general fund, the same fund from which teachers’ salaries come.

School board member Teresa Hagen said she liked the idea of a group forming to talk about finances. “I want to create every opportunity for kids we can, but we still have to watch our general fund. We’re letting people go, and we need to be careful of that. The more we can get together and talk, the better off we’ll be,” Hagen said.

Board member Mark Peters also said he needs some certainty of the finances. “We need a concrete plan in place with real costs. It’s nice to say we have all these people who want to help and contribute and have fundraisers, but we still don’t know how much is going to come from the school and how much is going to come from the community. If you don’t have a concrete plan, this could turn south pretty quick,” he said.

The challenge the committee faces is that until it’s clear how many students will play soccer, it will be hard to know how many teams there will be. There could be only one co-ed team or up to four teams, with varsity and junior varsity teams for boys and for girls.

As the parents left the meeting, Karber encouraged them to be active in promoting a future bond referendum like they promoted soccer.

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