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BURNET — The Burnet High School athletic department has neared its goal of adding soccer to its lineup.
Boys and girls squads of 20-25 players each will gear up during the 2015-2016 school year and compete as a club team during the spring season, meaning they will not play in a district and are ineligible for the postseason.
The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District board of trustees approved the addition during its regular meeting Feb. 18.
“It’s something we looked at and talked about for a number of years now,” athletic director Kurt Jones said. “We had lots of discussions about it with community members, who expressed an interest in it. We were trying to figure out when and how we could do it.”
Many factors contributed to it being the right time for the Bulldogs, Jones said.
First, the passage of the bond that allows improvements to Bulldog Field at $1,888,820 included artificial turf.
Jones said administrators worried the natural grass that’s currently at the stadium would not hold after football ended in November for soccer, which starts in January. After-school soccer practices will begin the week after Thanksgiving.
“The addition of synthetic turf changes that dynamic,” Jones said.
The biggest reason, however, is student interest, he said.
Burnet High School counselors give course choice sheets to students, and one part specifically asks about athletics. Jones said 50 students who are not playing a sport reported they’d play soccer if it was offered; another 20 athletes said they’d sign up for soccer in addition to the sport they already play.
“I think we have the numbers there to allow us to have a boys team and a girls team to compete,” he said.
The projected cost of adding soccer is $40,000-45,000, he said, for a 14- to 18-game schedule and includes:
uniforms, sweatsuits, practice gear
equipment such as soccer balls, soccer nets, cones
travel expenses such as fuel, meal money
Jones said a major role educators have is to help students be all they can be, which includes a chance to play a sport currently not offered.
“I totally believe that adding a program always comes with challenges and some unknowns,” he said. “Soccer is new for us, but almost every school around us has been playing soccer. We have 20, 30, 40 kids (who want) an opportunity to be involved in extracurricular activities and grow and develop in that arena.”
District realignment will be announced by the UIL for soccer in late spring 2016. After that, Burnet will be told what district it will play in, making the transition from a club team to a varsity program.
Several months ago, the University Interscholastic League created a soccer classification for Conference 4A, which went into effect this season. Before that, Class 4A schools that offered soccer had to play in the closest 5A district.
Had the UIL not done that, more than likely, the Bulldogs would have competed in District 25-5A with Marble Falls, Cedar Park, Cedar Park Vista Ridge, Leander Vandegrift, Leander, Georgetown, Georgetown East View and Dripping Springs.
Currently, Lampasas, Liberty Hill and Salado, which play Burnet in every sport except football, are in soccer’s District 25-4A with Georgetown Gateway College Prep and Jarrell.
Jones said the UIL creating a separate conference for Class 4A soccer did not factor into why he asked the board to approve adding the sport.
“We’re totally aware the UIL made a new classification,” he said. “I think it’s good. I don’t think I’d go as far as to say that’s why. I guess when you’re looking at realignments and alignments, it’s always good when the UIL establishes separate classes. We’re a Class 4A school. I think they moved us there for a reason. To me, that’s common sense.”