C.R. adds soccer to sports line-up

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Clayton Ridge students practice their soccer skills in preparation for the upcoming spring soccer season. The new varsity soccer program will be able to participate in state-sanctioned competition and be eligible for state titles. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Clayton Ridge High School will be adding soccer as an official varsity sport this spring. High school soccer has always been a club sport played in the summertime, and not part of the school's extra curricular activities. The new varsity program will be able to participate in state-sanctioned competition and be eligible for state titles just like football or basketball. 

Dan Pierce, water superintendent for the City of Guttenberg, has been hired as the head coach for the newly added high school sport. Pierce, and his wife, Jody, reside in Guttenberg, and have three children, Mara, Morgan and Lincoln. "I will be the head coach of the high school program, which will consist of a varsity and junior varsity team this season," said Pierce. "The J.V. head coach will be Erik Sarazua. Erik has played soccer throughout his childhood and with the Guttenberg soccer club program in high school. His family has an incredible background in soccer and he will be a huge asset to the program. T.J. Pierce and Jason Tipsword have also volunteered to assist with coaching," he added.

Experienced coach

Pierce began playing soccer at age 10 when it was introduced to Guttenberg in 1986. After he aged-out of the program he assisted with his brother's team. "It wasn’t an option to play in high school then, so I actually helped coach my younger brother, T.J., just to stay involved with the sport. Steve Bahls was the head coach for my brother’s team at that time." He added, "I played pick up games when I could, and was on some intramural teams in college at Iowa State. I started coaching soccer again when Mara was in first grade and have been doing it ever since. I am currently coaching JV girls basketball at Clayton Ridge, and it has been a rewarding experience for the past four years."

Pierce shared his enthusiasm for the game. He commented, "I love playing soccer! When I get a chance to be involved in drills during practice, or when we need another body on the field during a scrimmage, I am happy to get right in there. While my body still lets me, I will try to stay as involved as I can."

Looking back

Pierce credited community members who first organized a soccer program at the high school level. He shared, "The option to play soccer at the high school level in Guttenberg began in 1998 when a group of interested parents in surrounding communities got together and organized a league for high school aged soccer athletes to play during the summer. Jim Osterhaus, Bruce Bryant, Karen Merrick and others did most of the legwork to get it going. I worked for the City of Guttenberg at that time as the Park/Rec Director. My brother TJ got to play that first year going into his senior year of high school. It has been discussed since then to make it a school sport, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t work out until now."

Pierce is grateful for the parents and players who pushed for the high school sport. He noted, "I have been asked many, many times over the years if I thought soccer should be a school sport and I always thought it would be awesome. I think it just finally got to the point that we got serious enough to put together a plan, pursue it, and approach the school board. Hats off to all the parents and players who kept asking." He further noted, "The interest from current students was a big factor in adding this option at Clayton Ridge. We will have between 35-40 student athletes participating this spring.

City League will remain

A city league will remain in place for youth/high school soccer players. "I have been the director of the youth soccer program in Guttenberg for the last eight years," said the dedicated coach. "We will continue to offer organized leagues in the fall for our youth beginning with first grade, and we plan to continue our summer program for the high school. This past year we had over 130 kids involved – ranging from 1st-12th grade. Having a high school team justifies all of the efforts the youth programs put forth, and gives the kids the goal of playing on the high school team at that point in their careers. We are continually looking to evolve and improve the youth soccer program, so having a high school team may open up more opportunities for the youth as well," he explained. 

Pierce discussed the numerous advantages to playing soccer. He listed, "Soccer takes a great deal of skill to be proficient at the sport, but a certain body type is not required to be a valuable player on the field. Speed is important for certain positions, stamina will be important for all positions and teamwork is a must. The footwork and spatial awareness required on the soccer field will help all soccer athletes with most other sports and activities they will be involved in. To quote the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union soccer page, '...they not only develop their fundamentals, technique and skills, but they also learn valuable life lessons about teamwork, sportsmanship, determination and discipline.'”

Soccer schedule

High school soccer practice began March 15, with the first game held on April 1. The team is scheduled to compete against Postville, North Fayette Valley, Anamosa, West Delaware, New Hampton, Decorah, Cascade and Cedar Valley Christian this season. "We have 10 regular season games on the schedule for the varsity team and nine games for JV right now. The first regional soccer game will be held on May 20, followed by more regionals and sub-state the following week. The state competition will take place the first week in June. There are currently three classes of soccer in Iowa; we will be in the smallest class, 1A," said Pierce. 

Both boys and girls will be playing together on the Clayton Ridge teams this season. "We will compete in the boys schedule, but girls are allowed to play on the team. Some teams we play will also be co-ed, but our  competition will primarily be boys only. Believe me, our girls are up for the challenge!” He added, “A girls-only schedule and league does exist, but currently Clayton Ridge does not have enough girls to make up a team this season, although it may be an option in the future.”

Pierce is excited to take soccer to the next level. He pointed out, “Clem and Hilda Demuth were at the forefront of bringing soccer to Guttenberg, along with Al Troester, Steve Bahls and many others in 1986. Over the years Bob Wagner, Bill Leonhart, Bruce Bryant, Dawn Mueller, Brian Aulwes and countless other parent/coaches were highly involved with the program. Jim Osterhaus got involved early on, took the reins, and ran the program for the better part of 25-plus years. I am so excited to take it to the next level, and I’ve felt excitement from current players, their parents, as well as many past players who wish they would have had a chance to put on a school uniform and compete.” 

Questions and concerns

“There are a lot of activities that take place at the same time as soccer in the spring – including track, golf, other extra-curricular activities as well as the beginning of the softball and baseball seasons. I think initially there was a fear that adding another activity would not work.” Pierce continued, “What it came down to was the great interest from the kids and giving them another option. It also comes down to the support of the school and coaches to work together in the best interest of the student athletes who will be allowed to participate in multiple sports in the same season. The spring coaches are working together when it comes to scheduling conflicts to do the best they can to make it work for the kids.”

Some unsolicited donations were made to the program. He noted, “I would like to show some recognition to Aaron Burke, Craig Finch, Alex Finch, Andy Reimer with New York Life and William Kann with Kann Manufacturing. These individuals or organizations all made substantial donations to defray initial costs of the program. The Clayton Ridge Athletic Booster Club will also be contributing greatly to the soccer program.”

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