Jr. high soccer discussion jumps to school board meeting

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Area School Board heard a presentation from various members of the community regarding the implementation of a junior high soccer program in the district at Wednesday night's meeting.

Dr. Dave Gigliotti, soccer dad and president of the Punxsutawney Soccer Association (PSA), said that soccer is catching fire all over the world.

"We've grown our PSA program to a great level," Gigliotti said, "over 300 kids per season have participated. It is mainly for recreation, where everybody can get involved."

Gigliotti said having a soccer program in the middle school or junior high is important.

"There is only so much competition; we do play in other towns in the SAY league," he said.

Gigliotti said junior high soccer would bring about teamwork and teach kids to play together.

"The Board of directors of PSA has fields at the airport that are available, and we have other resources, such as corner flags, that might be a help in getting the program started.

Kerri Presloid, soccer mom, said she has been dragging her kids for 15 years to play soccer, and now, her oldest son Tyler plays for Penn State Behrend.

"I have a son who is 13 and in 8th grade, and this would obviously benefit him," Presloid said, adding that Tyler played at DCC so he could learn soccer skills sooner than high school.

Shenkle said adding junior high soccer is not about “keeping up with the Joneses.”

"This will benefit my team, as they are taught the way I want them taught earlier on," he said, adding there was more to it than that.

"When I played for my school in junior high, I was proud of representing my school," Shenkle said, "I hate hearing that kids drop out of a program because they can't play soccer at an earlier age."

Shenkle said the startup costs would be $5,300, which includes uniforms and paying a coach.

"Generally, we replace uniforms every five years, and we would hope to play a 14-game schedule, which would include bussing and paying the officials," he said.

Dave London, high school principal, said they are hoping for 40 kids to turn out for soccer.

Francis Molinaro, board member, said he would vote for that the money for start-up, which would come out of the general fund.

"I lived in Europe and saw how big soccer is over there," he said.

Shenkle said the program would run in the fall, and there are various elementary fields the teams could practice on, and even some the PSA would allow them to use. Those fields may even be available for games, he said.

Penny Pifer, athletic committee chair, said she will have the soccer proposal put on the agenda for the next voting meeting.

"I've seen the program grow, and how it continues to improve, and we literally started from nothing,” Pifer said. “It's nice to see how it has been built up."