JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — Fresh off guiding the Marble Falls High School boys soccer team to two postseason wins, Mustangs head coach Rick Hoover spent the rest of his spring creating a program at Marble Falls Middle School.
In their first season, the Ponies posted a 1-1-3 record and finished as the district tournament runners-up after losing to Hudson Bend 3-2, he said. The middle school season takes place in late April and early May.
“We have a good group down there,” the coach said.
Because of the interest in middle school soccer, Hoover said 60 seventh- and eighth-graders tried out for one team. He kept 40 athletes. The 11 starters played in every game, he said, with the remaining 29 taking turns suiting up for contests. The school also fielded a girls team.
“My goal was to build the Marble Falls Middle School program,” Hoover said. “I was trying to get the kids involved. There were lots of kids at practices, making each other better. The goal is to get these kids playing. Everyone made the travel squad at least once.”
He said the Ponies participated in some of the same drills the high school team does, and coaches emphasized the fundamentals of the sport. Hoover said 80 percent of their practices were spent on basics.
But he didn’t necessarily teach them the same schemes the high school players use.
“(Schemes) depend on what you have,” he said. “The system I’m running now I may not run in two years. You have to fit your system around the talent you have.”
Besides the opportunity to improve their skills, Hoover said players had something to look forward to that kept them motivated to keep their grades up and be productive in other areas.
While he encourages his players in each grade to participate in other sports and activities, the majority simply concentrate on soccer, the coach said.
“Those kids needs to have something,” he said. “They need to blossom. This gives them that. This is the first time they’ve ever had to show their coaches their report cards. They’ll do that in high school.”
In time, Hoover hopes to have a team of seventh-graders and a squad of eighth-graders.
The challenges, however, center around costs. That’s double the meal money, double the travel costs, double the uniforms and practice, and double the equipment.
“It’ll also double the playing time for everybody and keeps kids playing the same ages. We have the numbers for that,” he said. “We have to make sure we have the budget for it.”