Christie Hart (left) and Brooke Summers run through soccer drills during practice at Grovetown Middle School.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Columbia County's newest middle-school soccer team doesn't have any goals, but that's OK - the Grovetown Middle School Lady Patriots are going to have their kicks anyway.
Grovetown Middle opened its doors on Jan. 3, and the Lady Patriots will christen the school's athletic program with a match Wednesday at Riverside Middle School.
Team tryouts were held earlier this month, and despite not yet having any soccer goals on their pitch, the Lady Patriots have been preparing for their debut with goals in their hearts.
Considering the Riverside girls shut out every opponent during the 2002 soccer season, the lack of goals at Grovetown might be just a minor inconvenience for the upstarts.
While the Lady Patriots have been trying to figure out how to handle Riverside, Grovetown Middle School Athletic Director Dan Sneeringer has been busy tackling his own problems, the least of which is figuring out the phone number at his new place of business.
"It's been real hectic. There are a couple of loose ends that have to be tied," said Sneeringer, who previously was a coach and teacher at Harlem Middle School.
Among the things on Sneeringer's to-do list - finishing the dugouts and pitcher's mound on the baseball field; having goal posts installed on the Grovetown gridiron; and, of course, securing soccer goals.
There are other drawbacks to starting a middle-school athletic program in the middle of a school year.
"The revenue sports, football and basketball, are in the fall. Football fully funds athletic programs at the middle-school level," Sneeringer said. "We don't have an established booster club, so we don't have any outside funding. Our resources are limited."
The slim pickings also apply to the number of available athletes, as Harlem Middle School's student base was basically split in half to form Grovetown Middle.
"The school has been cut from 800 to 400 students, and we still have to field teams. We're going to make due with what we have."
So far, so good. Grovetown has held a couple of interest meetings for soccer and baseball, and Sneeringer is optimistic that the kids will eagerly don the red, white and blue.
"They're all excited about it," he says.
The excitement has already extended to Jimmie Lewis, Harlem High School's athletic director.
"I'm tickled to death about it," Lewis said of Grovetown Middle, which, along with Harlem Middle, will be a feeder school for Harlem High.
"That's twice as many kids playing sports, so when they get here, they'll have more experience. Hopefully, that will give us more kids who are involved with athletics."
Grovetown Middle's soccer schedule is set, but the baseball slate is still up in the air, according to Sneeringer, who will coach the Patriots on the diamond.
Other spring coaching assignments are: boys and girls soccer - Joe Impingo; track and field - Shontier Barnes; and golf - Sneeringer and Christy Fuller.
With the addition of Grovetown Middle, Columbia County now has seven middle schools. Since Grovetown's students formerly attended Harlem Middle, there should be an instant athletic rivalry between those schools.
But like the missing soccer goals, success might arrive later in Grovetown - as Sneeringer has learned, middle school athletic programs aren't built in a day.
"We'll be like any expansion team. You have to build and develop for a couple of years," he said. "Either way, Harlem High School will be receiving good athletes. The fortunate thing for us is we can establish our own name. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to start a program from scratch."
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