Soccer teams go co-ed out of necessity

September 16, 1992|By Mike Nortrup | Mike Nortrup,Staff Writer

This year, coaches of the Freedom Optimist soccer program's high school-aged teams won't be able to cheer on their players with cries of "Let's go, girls."

That's because 14 boys are among the 64 players in what last year was the Freedom program's under-16 girls division.

This season, Freedom Optimists' senior soccer bracket is known as the Co-ed under-17 division.

Its four teams, some still searching for nicknames, opened Sunday afternoon with two games at Eldersburg Elementary School.

The boys were added because there weren't enough of them to form their own league and they needed a place to play, said Optimist under-17 coordinator Chris Gunther.

He said, "[co-ed soccer] was born of necessity, but I think it may really take off."

Todd Smith, who coached the Columbia Blue team that dropped a 3-2 decision to Green/Navy in the afternoon's first game, felt the girls at the younger end of the division's 12-17 age range could get hurt playing against 14-, 15- and 16-year-old boys.

He said he could support the idea if the players are all in the same age range next time.

But Smith also felt his team, which had only one boy, played well against a team with six boys, saying, "The girls played very aggressively. If it weren't for their goalkeeper we could have won."

Gunther's team, which selected the name Pepto Pink because of its jersey color that bears a striking resemblance to a well-known stomach remedy, lost, 1-0, to Team 3, which had three boys to Gunther's one.

One of them, center halfback Will Hodgin, scored the game's only goal.

But while Hodgin was one of the best players on the field, he didn't dominate, and the girls played more than evenly against two other boys who were full backs.

Team 3 dominated the first half, but Pepto had the better of things after intermission even though it couldn't score.

Gunther believes the game will be faster and more aggressively played with boys thrown in the mix.

But he also feels the boys will save their most physical play for each other and not use it on the girls.

He said some parents withdrew their daughters from the co-ed league, "based on unfounded fear of what could happen."

Team 3 coach Mary Louise Carter said she was uncertain what the effect of adding boys to the league will be.

She said some of them may feel they are up against weaker competition and not play with the same intensity.

The girls themselves didn't seem particularly concerned about playing with the opposite sex.

"The competition is better with the boys but it's fun to see if we can beat them," said Team 3 player Katie Auerback.

"They basically have the same skills as us," added teammate Heather Carter.

Pepto's Jennifer Parks said, "We didn't think about it that much. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. We just played like they were ugly girls."

Teammate Debbie Clark added, "We wanted to show them we could play as well as a guy could."

Two boys came away impressed with the girls' showing against them.

Fourteen-year-old Tim Lambert, the only boy on Gunther's team, said the girls were as good as the players in the boys soccer leagues he had played in.

Team 3's Brandon Shifflett also took notice.

"They were tougher than I thought they'd be," he said.

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