A group of concerned individuals petitioned the Worcester County Board of Education Tuesday to bring junior varsity football to Pocomoke High School (PHS).
While many board members openly supported the idea, they also cautioned the group that the process of bringing a football team to PHS would likely be long and have to take place in degrees.
“They [the kids] all want to play,” said Howard Wilkinson parent of two children currently at Pocomoke Middle School.
Wilkinson explained to the assembly that his kids deserved the opportunity to play football on a school team once they reached PHS.
As of now, the only options for Pocomoke area students who wish to play football are programs like the Salvation Army Youth Club. Or, if a student is determined to play on a school team, Worcester County allows youths to attend any public school they wish, regardless of residence, as long as the individual can provide their own transportation.
This policy has resulted in many students transferring to nearby Snow Hill High School, just to take advantage of that school’s football program.
However, the process can be trying on families who have to transport the student to and from school every day. Additionally, the transfer means having to adjust to a new school and new people, an experience which is often difficult to manage for students at that age.
While Worcester used to allow temporary, one semester transfers to students wishing to participate in other schools’ sporting seasons, a relatively recent state athletic law has changed the rules.
“The school you play for, you have to graduate from,” Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes explained to the assembly, meaning that students who transfer to Show Hill High School to play football are implying the intent to graduate from that school. If they were to return to PHS at any point, they would not be allowed to play on the Show Hill High football team again.
Such rules were cited by the group asking for a football program at PHS, including Salvation Army Youth Club Director Harvey Davis, who told the Board of Education that he saw more than enough commitment and dedication from Pocomoke players on his club team to justify giving the school its own program.
The board heard what the advocates were saying and seemed engaged in the discussion and exploring all options.
Several members shared their own memories of playing high school football and agreed that it was an opportunity for growth that all youths should have the chance to experience. However, the realities of bringing football to PHS, even just junior varsity, will be difficult to surmount.
“Football is a very expensive undertaking,” said Andes. “It’s probably one of the most expensive programs.”
Board of Education President Bob Hulburd agreed, saying, “There are a lot of nuts and bolts and details that need to be worked out.”
The board suggested taking the Stephen Decatur High School swim team as something of a model for what would need to be done at PHS. That team began at the club level after receiving a lot of support from students and parents and eventually evolved into a fully Decatur-endorsed program.
“You need to show the intent and commitment of the community,” Board of Education Vice President Bob Rothermel said.
Rothermel recommended getting in touch with PHS administration, the PTA, and the community at large and coming back at the board’s next meeting.
Wilkinson and his group got a head start on Rothermel’s proposal when PHS Principal Tyrone Mills, who was in the audience, lent his support to the petition.
“I’d love to have football at Pocomoke High School,” he said.