Sports is slowing down for the winter break so all of you Trojans, Tonopah and Beatty fans will have to put up with my opinion this week before Christmas.
As everyone in Pahurmp knows, the women’s soccer team lost a 3-2 bout for the state title up in Carson City. As a person who witnessed the game, I am not here to blame and point fingers, but only wish to look at the facts and how things are changing.
After all, the Trojans played a tough game and went down guns blazing scoring their last goal in the last 20 seconds of the game. I would even venture to say if the Trojans had an extra 20 minutes they would have worn down the South Tahoe team and actually pulled the victory off. I even think our girls had the better team.
As everyone knows, I have come off as a proponent of club sports, especially in soccer and I have taken flack from all the coaches who do not agree with me on this, but most respect my opinion.
It’s a different age now from when I grew up in the 70s where there really were no club sports. Scouts from colleges would actually visit high schools to look at players. Nowadays club sports pretty much dominate athletics in every sport, including football. Division one college teams just do not have the time to see and visit high schools and there is just too much money involved at this level. Athletes wanting to go to a Division one school have to invest the time in promoting themselves.
Case in point, Kaitlin Klem who is now playing at a Division 1 school, Grand Canyon University, playing soccer is a good example. She would be the first to tell you that her grades got her into college but she needed club soccer and a college recruiter to figure out which Division 1 schools were good for her.
I use Klem here to illustrate this point, but there were others too according to Joe Sladek, head coach for the Las Vegas Players Club team. Sladek has also been instrumental in propelling our girls teams to state as an assistant coach. The chemistry between him and Head Coach Pam Larmouth over the years has just been fabulous.
“Terah Larmouth and Janet Garcia (the 2 players in 2008) were the first two long term club players (that I coached) that played soccer for PVHS,” Sladek said. “Prior to 2010, PVHS had not qualified for the state tournament. They played in the 2009 (maybe 2008) tourney in Mesquite only because there were only two southern 4-A teams (Faith and PVHS).”
The coaches against club sports say that club sports really kill athletics in the Division 1-A level, but they fail to point out that the Division leaders like Faith Lutheran use club sports.
When your competition is using club sport athletes to fill key positions, you will lose. Joe Sladek has proven this.
“Length of club experience is more important that just club experience as it takes 3-4 years of year-round club experience before a kid “gets it”. As they gain more experience and confidence their game improves and they are able to play at a higher level. Sydney, Courtney, Bird and Lexi are examples of players that can play at any level of the game. They all have national experience that has pushed them to be able to play at the Division 1 level of college soccer. I expect all four of them to do well in college,” he said.
Sladek’s daughter Sydney Sladek will be going to play for the University of Southern California next year and will remain a Trojan.
Could you say the decline in club players has led to the Trojans loss? I won’t go that far. People forget that the score was 0-0 at the end of the first half of the state title game.
Some coaches believe club players take away from other sports. This is debatable. Pahrump has roughly 1,200 students and maybe 30 percent of them are athletes. We have a large pool of students which can be used, and all we need to do is motivate the right people. It can be done. Look at Pahranagat Valley, they have around 100 students and pull from the entire student body.
If a club player is playing a club sport more than likely he or she loves the sport she is playing and wants to play that sport in college and therefore won’t play another sport anyway.
Last year the track team had several players who did not fully commit. I agree with the coaches, that if they can’t commit to the major meets than they should not be running track. Of course, I would like them on the team. The ones that did run last year were good runners and deserved to run. This should be up to coach and the team with the coach having the final say. This way it’s not a total democracy. So, if you have a player that is good and she or he has a club obligation, have the athlete spell it out at the beginning of the season on how many meets they will miss and hold them to it. There must be some give on both sides.
The club players that did miss last year told me that they were not trying to bow out on team obligations but were trying to promote themselves so they could get a college scholarship. To me, that is important since we do not have many athletes getting full-ride scholarships to begin with. Some of those players were already committed to a college and they missed meets. There is no easy answer to this but it was explained to me that they missed so that they could help their fellow teammates look good so their teammates could get a scholarship too.
Our school should be promoting our students to attend college. How many think our high schools in Southern Nevada do a good job promoting our athletes? Is it even their jobs to do so? What do guidance counselors do? Do they arrange career days, and advise students on how to get a scholarship? Some say yes and some say no and it depends on what school you go to. Should scholarship information be readily available at every high school? Yes, it is available on websites, but who sits down with the kids to look? I would love to talk to our high school about how they prepare our kids for college.
These are all very good questions and these are the kinds of questions every parent in the district should be asking their high school. Grade them on this. Hold the school accountable. Tell the school your kids want to attend college. Ask questions and don’t accept no for an answer. Get involved in your kids’ education and future for that is the only way your kid will go to college.
Have I changed any minds on club sports? Probably not and that is OK too. It’s just my opinion. Is there another way? Of course there is. To find the answer to this you look at programs that are successful.
What will it take, for us to win another state title? More club players? Club players are one solution. Don Boulden is looking at players differently. He does believe in club, but does not depend on it. He believes in attitude and hard training. His key players are just superior athletes. His attitude training has given him a 6-8 record in league, the best record in the men’s team has had in three years. Boulden is taking a page from Pahranagat Valley, the Spartan school of Southern Nevada.
Pahranagat Valley believes in training kids young in one way of playing a game and they are united from the high school level down to the youth leagues in how they train their athletes. In the fall, this school took the volleyball state title and the football state title. Just in football alone this high school has 17 state titles since 1978. They took six straight state titles since 2005. In volleyball, Coach Ginger Whipple has gone to a state title match 18 times. The school has won 15 state titles since 1985. Tonopah coaches are tired of losing to them and are moving in this direction.
Barrel racer Dusty Simmers who was born and raised in Pahranagat Valley says sports are a way of life in her valley.
“When I was in high school there were 89 kids in the school. I believe it’s lower right now, but the senior class is like 13 kids and only two boys. When I was there we lived and breathed and ate sports. If your family is from here, you probably have state championships running through your veins and each year we get tougher and tougher. Those coaches work with the young kid coaches and form teams that build from grade school to middle school to high school. You know each other so well and you know what the other team players are thinking and the coaches are like family to us,” she said.
Should Pahrump do this? I think Pahrump is going in this direction too. Look at the wonderful program the football coaches in our community have built. Joe Clayton established Pop Warner and Rosemary Clarke Middle School has a strong football program. The high school and middle school even run the same offensive system, a double-wing-jet sweep. The high school program continues to grow and get better each year due to the hard work and dedication put in by Joe Clayton and his staff.
Our wrestling program is another wonderful program run by Trojans Coach Craig Rieger. The Pahrump Valley Junior Trojans is a club team. They have set up a training program for the youth in our valley that is just top notch. Rieger says his high school program has already reaped the benefits of this program. He said now all the valley needs is a good middle school wrestling program. Our wrestling program is on the verge of great things this year.