Hutchinson Public Schools and Glencoe-Silver Lake will unite for boys and girls soccer. The decision was made at the Hutchinson School Board meeting Monday evening, a month after board members discussed it at a prior meeting.
Two parents addressed the School Board on the subject. One said he foresaw nine Hutchinson girls being cut from the team due to the cooperative and asked for the Board not to approve it. Another said a cooperative would strengthen the program as numbers fluctuate, and it would improve middle school competition that will foster better high school players.
Activities director Thayne Johnson said Minnesota State High School League rules allow for plenty of player substitution in soccer games.
Board members discussed "overwhelming" support for the cooperative in emails from parents and girls soccer players.
"We didn't hear anything from the boys," said Board Member JoEllen Kimball. "We should give it a try. The girls seem to want it."
The School Board approved the cooperative, but it will also need approval from GSL. It is on the agenda Thursday. If approved, the cooperative would begin in the fall.
A month ago, Johnson said the cooperative would help stabilize participation numbers. Over the past five years, he said, interest in the program has waned in Hutchinson.
In the boys high school program, there were 29 participants in 2015, with 19 in the middle school. By 2018, participants had dwindled to 19 in the high school and 17 in the middle school, though there was a small jump in 2019 with 18 in the high school program and 28 in the middle school. As a result, in 2018 and 2019 there was only a middle school and varsity program, but no junior varsity program.
In the girls high school program there were 36 participants in 2015, with 13 in the middle school. That dwindled to 20 in the high school program in 2019 and eight in the middle school. As a result, girls soccer has been a grade 7-12 program since 2016, which means those grade levels are split between junior varsity and varsity.
Johnson said there is some optimism with high numbers in the younger Community Education soccer program, but there has been high numbers before that didn't carry over. He believes that may be due to the fact athletes do not want to be in a program where they must compete against high school students while in seventh grade.
"That's also where we look at safety issues," Johnson said.
GSL reached out to Hutchinson to discuss a cooperative, Johnson said, providing an opportunity to have a willing partner. GSL is currently in a different cooperative.
"They are busing their kids all over the place," Johnson said. "They are just looking for a better situation."