The summer of 2018 has been the summer of start up sports programs in the local area. For the first time since the early 2000s, Portsmouth High School has a soccer program. Western Pike has a high school football program for the first time in school history. Now, Northwest High School has a jr. high soccer program for the first time in school history.
Recent successes by the varsity soccer team has made varsity head coach Josh Keeney push for the development of a youth program to help younger kids develop their skills at a younger age. “This is my eighth year” said Keeney, “Me and Coach Amburgey (Northwest girls soccer coach) finally got the board and the school to jump on board with us and start a Jr. High program.”
A lot of planning and preparation had to go into this decision, and not to mention convincing by Keeney himself. “We had to make sure had coaches, equipment, we had to make sure we could get teams scheduled” said Keeney, “You have to play other jr. high programs, you can’t play just other independent organizations. We want to get to where these kids are touching the ball pretty much every day, just like the high school. That way when they come in to us, we’re not spending one or two years getting them used to high school level play.”
This decision isn’t only about developing a farm system for the varsity team, but it is also about giving the kids a forum to play the game they love and develop and interest in the sport on a macro level. The Northwest board of education has full belief in the plans developed by Keeney. “We’ve got a great board now, they’re really in it for the kids” said Keeney, “We’ve had success in our soccer program at Northwest over the past several years, and they told me that if I was for it and if I thought it would help my program, they were all about it.”
The Mohawks first ever jr. high team will play a full schedule and will compete this year as a co-ed team. There are hopes that the inaugural team will draw enough interest among community members and students that will allow the school district to form separate boys and girls teams, but as of now they will play together. “Hopefully, the plan is, three-five years down the road if we get enough interest we can switch over,” said Keeney, “But for right now they’ll be one team, playing together.”
The head coach for the newly formed junior high team is Jeremy Oppey, and his head assistant is Nick Lewis. Over the course of the summer, Oppey says that the team has had anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five players show up to practices and open fields. He expects there to be around eighteen or nineteen players when all is said and done.
Oppey has been involved with youth soccer for the last several years and is excited to get this inaugural season underway. “We’re trying to help sustain the varsity programs” said Oppey, “Now we’re able to have practice after school once school starts, instead of just twice a week at the club level.”
Oppey said that his team will compete against area teams such as Piketon and Waverly this first season, and also a club team from New Boston during their first season of formation.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT