Area soccer coaches face tough decisions

By GENE PHELPS

Daily Journal

Unless some Tupelo and Starkville high school-aged soccer players receive injunctive relief next week from the court, they’ll have a difficult decision to make.

The choice: Play for their high school soccer team or play for their independent club. They will not be allowed to do both.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association’s updated handbook for the 2013-14 school year says no more than five players from an independent soccer team can participate on its high school soccer team during the school year.

Tupelo High boys soccer coach Harris Faucett has seven players – five juniors, two freshmen – facing a decision.

Tupelo has two independent teams. One has 10 members of the THS team while the other has seven Golden Wave players on its roster. All of Starkville’s players are members of one independent team.

“We had to have tryouts and I had to select five (from each independent team),” Faucett said. “It’s a rule and we had to go by it.”

Forced to choose

The seven players cut after the tryouts are the ones being forced to make a decision on whether to play high school or independent soccer.

Four of the Tupelo High players and 12 from Starkville High are plaintiffs in a complaint against the MHSAA and the Tupelo Public School District.

Faucett has had few conflicts with his players being members of independent teams.

“They usually don’t play when the high school season starts,” he said. “It’s never really been a problem.”

South Pontotoc coach Horace Kitchens, who coaches boys and girls soccer, said the MHSAA rule will not affect his teams.

“I only had three girls on one (independent) team last season,” he said.

Kitchens’ biggest concern is the independent teams playing and practicing during the high school season.

“I don’t need my players practicing (independent) on a Thursday before our high school match,” he said. “Once we get into the high school season, I don’t want any of my players playing (independent).”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com