There is something about the Northern Michigan Soccer League that doesn’t quite seem right to me. In theory, the league gives a conference home to several area schools that otherwise woudln’t have a league to play in. However, from some team’s point of view, Clares’ included it doesn’t seem like it’s working all that well.
The girls’ members of the NMSL are Clare, Gladwin, Roscommon, Houghton Lake, Cheboygan, Big Rapids Crossroads, Burt Lake Northern Michigan Christian and McBain Northern Michigan Christian.
How does this league make geographic sense? I don’t see why the Clare girls soccer team got on a bus yesterday around noon to play a conference game in Cheboygan.
Three hour trips are common in the post-season, but when there are so many soccer teams much closer in the area it just doesn’t add up for a week night regular season conference game. It doesn’t help matters that Cheboygan and Burt Lake NMC are soccer powerhouses. A three hour bus ride to play against a team that you’re really going to struggle competing with? What benefit will the team get out of that? I’m all for teams trying to toughen up their schedule to test themselves up for the post-season, but they could make the quick trip to Mt. Pleasant or Midland and get just as much competition at much less of a travel time.
Where does the academic side factor into all of this? Doesn’t student come first in student-athlete? What time did the soccer bus get home from Cheboygan last night? The girls would be lucky to get to sleep by midnight, assuming they don’t have homework or have to study for a test. Who would want to go to school the next day after a six hour round trip on the bus, plus the over three hours it took to play the junior varsity and varsity games?
Why can’t the four Jack Pine Conference teams (Clare, Gladwin, Roscommon and Houghton Lake) have their own small league? This would keep the JPC name in-tact and allow for a lot of non-league games against schools that are less than an hour away. If you don’t thin four teams are enough, then maybe extend an offer to Pinconning or Standish-Sterling. You could even give a look to Oscoda and Tawas Area. Those might be stretching it a bit as far as travel time, but the Pioneers would be very competitive in a league with those teams.
Most teams in the JPC are fortunate. The teams in this county are blessed to be in an eight school league that is such a great fit both in competitiveness and proximity-wise. As fantastic as the other sports’ programs are at Clare I don’t think their coaches would be too thrilled with having to get on a bus to Cheboygan for a league game. Why should soccer be treated any different than any other sport?
Take a look at the teams in Clare’s district. Besides the Pioneers it’s Standish, Oscoda, Tawas, Garber, Gladwin and Pinconning. I have personally seen several of these teams in action this year and feel Clare has a great chance to pull off a district championship. Why can’t they compete in a conference with these types of teams and give them a chance at some league honors as well?
It’s time to give a serious look at how effective the NMSL is for its members. It could be time to tweak it. Heck, it’s probably past the time of tweaking and it’s just time to blow the thing up.