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Soccer club’s presentation rankles Section II

Soccer club’s presentation rankles Section II

Dopp says comments were 'demeaning and degrading, and put down high school participation'
Soccer club’s presentation rankles Section II
A presentation by Black Watch soccer has angered many in Section II.
Photographer: Erica Miller

Wording used in a PowerPoint presentation to promote a Capital Region soccer club's pilot fall training program has rankled Section II coaches and administrators.

At the center of their discontent is a slide used in a recent presentation by Black Watch Premier leaders that under the heading "High School" reads "Poor Standard of Play" on one line, "No Player Development" on the next line and "Poor Standard of Coaching/Leaders" on the next.

Some say those phrases were intended as discussion starters during the Black Watch presentation before over two dozen parents and youngsters earlier this month. Even so, Section II Executive Director Ed Dopp and many others found them to be disparaging.

"In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, the comments or noted points are demeaning and degrading and put down high school participation in soccer," Dopp said. "As a long-time high school athletics person, I was greatly offended."

"It's really, really bad," Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan said. "Someone has to say it. It's a bad look for this club."

Steve Freeman is the Black Watch founder, director of programming and chief executive officer. Freeman remains the boys' varsity soccer coach at Christian Brothers Academy.

Freeman did not return multiple phone calls or an email from the The Daily Gazette requesting comment.

"BWP supports all sports. BWP supports high school soccer. In fact, BWP has high school soccer coaches on its staff. Roughly 95% of its age-eligible players at BWP will participate in high school soccer," Freeman wrote in a recent email to the Section II athletic administration that was obtained by The Daily Gazette. "BWP is developing plans to offer its players an elite club experience in the fall in lieu of high school soccer. BWP is testing this program on a pilot basis and is pursuing it in response to interest that originated with parents and players themselves."

Culnan said that while club and high school soccer both serve a purpose, he took great offense to the language used by Black Watch in promoting its 2019 Fall Training Program.

"I read it and had no other way to interpret it. It appears to me someone is looking to make money off soccer players in Section II," Culnan said. "It is a business, and they are trying to carve out a niche in the fall season when the high school season is going on."

Dopp last week sent an email to Section II athletic administrators with a letter expressing his concerns and pictures of the PowerPoint slides used by Black Watch.

"Very disappointed," said Ernie Clapper, the Section II boys' soccer coordinator and a former coach at Mayfield. "He [Freeman] is attacking a lot of conscientious, hard-working people that I care about.

"Obviously, I am alarmed that someone from a public institution would be so critical and basically say all of our high school [soccer] programs are poorly run. That's a false representation."

CBA Head of School James Schlegel said he was unaware of the PowerPoint presentation until afterward, and said his, "initial reaction was very strong." He also said he could understand the concern of Dopp and others and the reactions that have come forth.

The PowerPoint slide under the "High School" heading also has lines that read, "Too Many Games" and "Unhealthy Physical Workload — Injury Risk." Another slide under the heading of "Why Offer?" has a line that reads, "The Right Thing to Do."

"It looks like blanket statements. It was not meant to be," said Schlegel, who has had conversations with Freeman. "From my understanding, the intent was to respond to concerns that some parents had."

"It has come to our attention that two slides in the presentation caused a defensive reaction from many," Freeman wrote in his email. "We apologize sincerely if these slides may have been misinterpreted around ‘player development’ and ‘leadership.’ We understand the value of the infrastructure and access that is given to children to play via high school athletics and municipal programs. We are simply trying to offer a program that is an attempt to meet the needs of highly-competitive youth players who are trying to compete with players outside our region nationally and even internationally."

Dopp said he is OK with the option Black Watch wants to provide with its fall program, just not how its leaders promoted that option.

"Regardless of intention, the damage has been done," Dopp said. "To put down an education-based program while promoting theirs is very inappropriate. Too many people work hard to advance athletics at the high school level."

"Christian Brothers Academy was made aware of the presentation distributed by Black Watch Premier," CBA athletic director Blaine Drescher wrote in an email to The Daily Gazette. "As an Athletic Administrator and varsity head coach in Section 2 I understand and believe in high school athletics as well as the many benefits it can provide for students.  At CBA, we are continuing to try and provide our student athletes with every opportunity to have the best possible experience."

In his letter to the athletic administrators, Dopp said at this time there is no formal action being taken by Section II, and urged those administrators and their coaches to "be proactive and speak with your players and parents, emphasizing the many positive roles and benefits of participation in high school athletics. This is our strongest defense against the false accusations and comments made regarding the role of high school sports."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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