Soccer and Scioto County are two things that typically have not been synonymous with one another.
However, times are changing, and so is the landscape of the Shawnee State men’s soccer roster.
The 2017 roster features nine players who graduated from a Scioto County high school, with five of those players being freshman.
Shawnee State head coach Ron Goodson knows the area pretty well. After all, Goodson scored 117 goals in his career at Minford, which is still a record among Scioto County schools today.
As a player who grew up in the area and returned to coach here down the road, Goodson says soccer has really grown in popularity since he became coach at Shawnee State.
“It’s traditionally not a strong soccer area, but as time has went on the players are much better,” Goodson said. “They’re playing offseason stuff and playing year round, and it shows.”
The addition of club programs in the area have helped soccer players to play the sport year round. The added experience has paid off, and has helped to prepare kids to play at the next level.
“We’re getting more kids in our area that actually play not just high school soccer, but club soccer,” Minford soccer head coach David Gampp said. “Club soccer definitely helps them get more prepared for college … they really didn’t have that option for years.”
Another area that has grown over the years along with the players is the coaching. South Webster soccer head coach Corey Claxon feels that with more experienced coaches taking over at area high schools, the way the game is played has evolved considerably.
“I think what’s really helpful is the level of coaching has increased. We now have coaches that have played soccer,” Claxon said. “Starting off, it wasn’t really around here, so you had coaches who hadn’t played much. Now we’ve got guys going through college even, returning, and contributing back.”
Both Gampp and Claxon were excited to see Shawnee State recruiting kids from the area.
“I’m thoroughly happy that Shawnee is recognizing that we’ve got some players in our area that are good enough to play in the college level,” Gampp said. “I think that they’re really doing good about picking up some of the best players in the area to play.”
Claxon added “any time our athletes are able to go on and play college soccer, no matter where it is, it’s great.” Above all, though, Claxon is excited he can now “get a chance to go back and watch them.”
It’s a rarity for a college team to stockpile so many players who played against each other in high school. Players who were once competing against one another are now on the same team, looking to work together and play as teammates.
“I think it’s nice that finally the player you’ve always been trying to beat and fight against is now your teammate, and gets to be your buddy and you get to work together finally,” Gampp said.
This season, there expects to be a lot of new faces on Shawnee State’s soccer team. The Bears lost 10 members of last year’s club to graduation, but Goodson is excited about the freshman coming in. Goodson said this recruiting class is “one of our best, most athletic classes we’ve brought in.”
Goodson added that with all the local players on the team, he expects that will help create more interest in the program. “With a lot of local kids it’s good, a lot of people in the stands,” Goodson said. “In our scrimmages, we’ve had pretty good crowds for both of them.”
As interest in the sport begins to build in the area, maybe it isn’t so farfetched to think that soccer and Scioto County can be mentioned together in a positive way now.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT