Woodland Middle School holds soccer jamboree for first-ever Clark and Cowlitz counties' middle school girls soccer league

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Woodland Middle School hosted the season’s first soccer jamboree for the first-ever middle school girls soccer league in Clark and Cowlitz counties on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 with teams from Castle Rock School District, King’s Way Christian Schools, Ridgefield School District, and Woodland Public Schools. The league features a total of five teams with Ridgefield School District hosting two teams and one each from the other schools.

On September 12, Woodland Middle School hosted a jamboree for the first-ever middle school soccer league in Clark and Cowlitz counties.
On September 12, Woodland Middle School hosted a jamboree for the first-ever middle school soccer league in Clark and Cowlitz counties (click image or this link to open a larger version in a new window).

The idea for creating a middle school girls soccer league came together as a joint effort when the local athletic directors discussed the need to get more girls interested in school athletics at one of their regular meetings earlier this year. “At first, we didn’t know if we would have much interest in girls soccer at the middle school level,” explained Angela Campbell, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director for Woodland Middle School. “The response was amazing – almost immediately, we had more than 30 girls sign up in Woodland alone!”

In Ridgefield, girls’ interest in soccer was so overwhelming, the middle school created two teams to accommodate all the student athletes who signed up. “Soccer is an incredibly popular sport in Ridgefield, and an interest survey conducted earlier this year indicated that our girls had a desire to participate in the sport for their school because they already played outside the area,” explained Debbie Bentler, Athletic Director for Ridgefield School District. “When Woodland also expressed an interested in adding a team, it made sense for the athletic directors to join forces and create our own middle school league for Clark and Cowlitz counties.”

Starting a school's athletic team from scratch presents a number of obstacles including equipment, uniforms, and proper facilities.
Starting a school's athletic team from scratch presents a number of obstacles including equipment, uniforms, and proper facilities. 

Starting a school athletics team from scratch presents a number of logistical challenges including having the appropriate facilities and equipment. Woodland’s success in starting a team in just a few months stemmed from collaborative teamwork throughout the district. “Our high school program has been incredibly helpful by lending us equipment and uniforms to get going, and our district maintenance team has been amazing getting the field ready by painting lines and performing grounds maintenance,” said Campbell. “Right now, we’re fundraising for new goal posts and all kinds of equipment including balls, uniforms, and much, much more.”

Jeff Flanagan, technology teacher for the middle school and an avid athlete, lept at the chance to coach the girls' soccer team.
Jeff Flanagan, technology teacher for the middle school and an avid athlete, lept at the chance to coach the girls' soccer team. 

Jeff Flanagan, an avid athlete himself and a teacher at Woodland Middle School since 1998, jumped at the chance to coach his school’s team after promoting the idea for a middle school team for years. “I asked our school to consider adding a girls team four years ago when I was head coach of the high school team in order to increase interest in girls soccer at a younger age,” he explained. “At the time, there were too many obstacles to put a league together, but the timing was perfect to start one up this year.” For Flanagan, his adoration for coaching comes from his love of teaching and the game of soccer, itself. “I love the game and I really enjoy being with our amazing athletes,” he said. “Watching students progress and develop both as players and as individuals is truly fulfilling both as a coach and as a teacher.”

Students at Woodland Middle School have demonstrated an interest in a girls soccer team for years.
Students at Woodland Middle School have demonstrated an interest in a girls soccer team for years. 

Student interest in a girls soccer league is nothing new to Woodland Middle School. Some students even pushed for a team by reaching out to the school’s administrators. “I started playing soccer in kindergarten and I thought a team at the middle school would be a great addition to the school,” explained BrookLynn Donald, a seventh grader. “Last year, I wrote a letter to the principal and assistant principal to let them know that sports are important for girls because they offer a different avenue of participation than traditional girls activities.”

Woodland’s student athletes couldn’t be happier about the new league. “We’ve been asking to have a soccer league for a long time, so now that it’s actually happening, we’re really pumped and excited,” said Jaylee Graham, a seventh grader. “I’ve always loved soccer since I started playing when I was six; I like how soccer is both a fast-moving and a mental game.”

Student athletes rave about their love of soccer's mental requirements combined with its physicality and fast-paced play.
Student athletes rave about their love of soccer's mental requirements combined with its physicality and fast-paced play. 

Bella Mattison, an eighth grader and team captain, agreed with Graham. “Soccer is really fast, really fun and a lot more physical than other sports,” she explained. “As both team captain and the ASB president, I like how sports teach leadership and the importance of working together.”

Middle School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Angela Campbell also touts the proven importance of school athletics and extracurricular activities in students’ academic careers. “Athletics and other extracurricular activities are instrumental in instilling self-confidence in our students and also teaching them valuable leadership skills,” she explained. “In addition, afterschool activities motivate students to perform well in school since students have to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) and submit weekly grade checks to ensure they’re qualified to participate.”

Woodland Middle School plans to add a second team next year to accommodate the ever-increasing level of interest. “With more than 30 girls this year, we could have had two small teams, but we decided to go with one big team in order to gauge interest and test the waters,” said Campbell. “We're definitely hoping to have two teams next year.”

Woodland community members interested in supporting the middle school girls soccer team can give donations at the Woodland Middle School main office located at 725 Park Street, Woodland, WA 98674 and get more information by calling (360) 841-2850.

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