Will move to fall in 2012 hurt?
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Palmerton girls soccer coach Barry Hahn (left) gives instruction to members of his team during practice.
When asked how the PIAA proposed move of girls' soccer from the spring to the fall in 2012 would affect his program, Lehighton head coach Dan Dagorn didn't mince his reply. Already faced this season with the absence of a junior varsity program, Dagorn believes the situation can become fatal.
"It will destroy the program," said the second-year girls' head coach who has also coached the boys' program. "Right now, we are struggling with our numbers. We don't have the girls coming out.
"If it does happen, we will be battling with the field hockey program, and that will not be a very good way to attract players."
One of the smaller schools in the greater Lehigh Valley area, Lehighton is among several schools that can be facing low team numbers if the proposed PIAA move does take effect in 2012. Some small high schools have the same concerns while other small schools as well as larger schools don't appear overly concerned.
By most coaches' indications, however, the move is on target to be enacted within two years.
Dagorn's concerns are legitimate considering competing in the fall against Lehighton's field hockey - the defending PIAA Class AA state champions has one of the strongest programs in the state. He was not only concerned about having enough players, but he also worried about field space in the fall against field hockey and the boys' sports.
"Right now, we have a space problem," stated Dagorn. "If we move the sport (girls' soccer) to the fall, it becomes a bigger problem. In a big school, it can be a problem. In a small school, it's very bad.
"We started this as a club sport (in 1994) to try and get the community involved. It has been a struggle, and this move won't make it any easier."
Palmerton head coach Barry Hahn isn't worried about interesting enough players for his program, but he is concerned about the field space issue. Still, he can sympathize with Lehighton's and possibly some other small schools' plights.
"I don't think we will have a problem fielding a team," he said. "In fact, it might affect the other sports in the spring. People always talk about how field hockey might affect soccer if it (soccer) is moved.
"I know it may have a great affect on a school like Lehighton, itself being a field hockey power. The other head (spring) coaches and I don't want to compete with each other over the same girls. It's a matter of finding the other two-thirds of the girls who aren't doing anything.
"But the real issue for us will be field space. It's a big problem because everything is tight, and I'm sure every school is facing the same issue."
At Pleasant Valley, head girls' soccer coach Tim Hinton has also downplayed the situation for his Class 4A school.
"I haven't spoken to too many people who are concerned about it," he said. "But we do have a lot of students unlike some of the smaller schools that can be hit hard. I really don't think it will affect us.
"Some of the girls will just have to make up their minds on what they want to do," added Hinton, who is in his second year as a head coach and sixth overall. "Field hockey is probably the most popular girls sport at PV (Pleasant Valley). But we haven't had a big numbers problem.
"When I think back, we have always had enough players to field both (JV and Varsity)."
Yet, Hahn hopes he and his fellow coaches can enjoy their current situation.
"Right now, nothing is guaranteed," he stressed. "We shouldn't worry about things that haven't happened yet."