The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board held a lengthy discussion on the topic at its Wednesday evening meeting and identified more than one reason for the dwindling Little League numbers, but with no soccer-affiliated parents notified to attend, no actions were taken.
Soccer started in 1999 and tripled in size by 2006. During that time Little League diminished by half.
“People are making the connection that Little League is suffering because of spring soccer,” said Ian Fulp, director of Parks and Recreation. “I think that is a logical assumption.”
Fulp said one possible problem is that spring soccer starts sooner — the season runs from March 1 to May 15 — and is cheaper, leading to parents getting their children out of the house to play soccer and not join Little League when it starts on April 15.
Another issue Fulp sees is the drop in promotion for some sports. When Little League participation dropped, so did participation in Little Dribblers basketball. Little League flyers and information also don’t seem to be circulating through schools as hoped, and many materials aren’t making it to students.
Kodiak Little League president Leonard Pickett said he believed parents just aren’t up to two sports.
“It’s too much for most parents. There’s a very small percentage of people that will juggle soccer and Little League at the same time,” Pickett said.
High school baseball coach Rick Langfitt said the March 25 soccer start date is too early, and Fulp said it wasn’t ideal.
“That’s a bad time of year to be doing something outside,” Fulp said. “It’s raining, it’s snowing and it’s bad.”
Fulp said the reason the start date isn’t put off for a later date and better weather is that it would run into Little League even more.
Parks and Recreation runs two soccer seasons. One suggestion was to axe the spring program and have only a summer program, which currently runs from July 7 to Aug. 8. However, Fulp said that wouldn’t work.
“Then there’s nobody here,” he said.
In spring there are about 300 participants compared with 100 in summer.
Langfitt argued that having spring soccer most likely diminishes summer numbers, but Fulp disagreed.
“People are moving; people are busy,” Fulp said. “It’s a bad time.”
Fulp said he would like to axe spring soccer just on the basis of weather, but he also added that there are groups of parents who are just as adamant about springtime soccer as the Little League supporters are about moving it or axing it.
No suggestions for moving Little League were made because, as a nationwide program, there are certain start dates and end dates the players and coaches have to adhere to for eligibility in tournaments.
“We don’t want to see soccer go away,” high school softball coach Sam Catt said. “Nobody wants soccer to go away. We don’t hate soccer, but the Little League baseball and softball programs we feel should have precedence.”
One of the reasons for this is that there is not a high school soccer team, though there was a high school-aged club team of about 25 last year.
Langfitt suggested soccer run from the first of May through June, and that the sports share the field.
At the end of the discussion the problem seemed to hinge on not having enough playing surfaces for soccer.
“The big culprit is field availability,” advisory board member Rich Walker said. “And that’s why the Baranof project is so big on everybody’s list to get it going.”
Fulp said he would think about the suggestions and bring in soccer parents to next month’s meeting to see if anything can be changed.
“Parks and Recreation created this problem,” he said. “We weren’t careful enough when we started this and so we can try and correct it.
“Everybody will put their two cents in and I’ll see what I can do.”
Mirror writer Louis Garcia can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.