Novato Girls Soccer Missing Out on Local Athletes

Meimi Curtis

The girls varsity soccer All-League MCAL teams are filled with players from Tam, Redwood and Branson. It is no surprise that these high schools have remained at the top of the league. For the past 16 years, the “best” players in the league have been produced by these three schools. Meanwhile, schools such as Novato High, San Marin,  and San Rafael have struggled to see success on the field and receive recognition for the players they have trained.

Throughout the 16 years that the MCAL website has posted the All-MCAL girl’s varsity teams, only two players from Novato High have made the first team. NHS has yet to produce a girls’ All-Around Player of the Year. This could lead one to believe that there could be a political aspect that affects the dynamic of the league, but the truth is that the factors can be as inconspicuous as inter-district transfers.

Although residing in Novato customarily proposes the idea that students should attend Novato or San Marin High School, many families attempt inter-district transfers to allow their kids to attend other schools. This explains why so many local soccer players  attend schools such as Redwood. Some players transfer to these schools because they wish to play for the teams that are already winning. This only continues the trend because these schools are constantly receiving new talented players, while Novato High girl’s soccer struggles. 

Another factor that impacts the imbalance of the league is sadly, money. Although it is rarely admitted, the winning schools are often the schools that are considered “rich”. It is not an unknown fact that towns such as Tiburon and Mill Valley are wealthier than Novato or even San Rafael. Therefore, the schools located in these areas normally attract the students of high-income earning parents. Due to their ability to afford club teams or private coaching, these students often play travel soccer along with high school soccer. Playing club not only improves the individual player’s skills but also builds a team bond before the high school season has even begun. 

A majority of the girls on the Marin Catholic or Redwood teams play together year round, providing an advantage against the other teams, whose students cannot afford to pay for club teams. Of course, this is not the players’ faults and playing for a travel team is an important opportunity for those who are serious about the sport. 

The Novato High girls varsity team has had quite an unsuccessful season. A team that started out with a small roster of 21 players is now down to 16, with five players out due to injuries. Many of Novato’s games are played with either no subs or with one single player on the bench. Forty-minute halves of constant running is not favorable for any of the players, even for those who are in shape. 

Despite their ability to work hard and show commitment, most games have been blowout losses for the Hornets. 

“There is nothing educational about getting blown out,” said Novato High varsity girls soccer coach, Patricia Johnson. “Maybe the league could be laid out differently, or bylaws and guidelines as to how the scores should be calculated could be created. But losing games so drastically teaches nothing to the players and I don’t want to watch the girls lose their love for the sport. As soon as the players seem like they are no longer enjoying the game because of how much they are losing by, something needs to be changed.”

Johnson also described discussions for possible adjustments to the league.

“It was recently mentioned at a soccer meeting that there could be incentives for the schools to get better or a rule of fairplay to be created. The top five teams are always the same and the bottom five teams are always the same,” Johnson said.

It has been both disheartening and embarrassing for the players to lose by so much. Novato High is not the only victim of these issues, as both San Marin and San Rafael have lost games with similar scores, all against the same dominant teams. A possible solution could be in the works. 

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) governs and regulates all the rules for high school sports across the nation. The North Coast Section (NCS) is only one part of the CIF and it governs the eastern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The mission statement on the CIF-NCS website states “The North Coast section fosters, defines, and preserves the role of athletics in secondary education. It is an organization committed to providing a wholesome environment in which educational athletics will thrive.”

The organization claims to preach education within athletics but allows for teams to consistently lose by large margins. There was quite an uproar when the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Thailand 13 to 0, causing some people to suggest a mercy rule. The same should apply to high school teams. Teams such as Novato hate losing by so much and teams such as Redwood are tired of having little competition.

For quite some time now, teams have played in brackets against schools of their own size. Meaning that, to qualify for the NCS tournament, Novato would have to score well against San Marin, San Rafael, Terra Linda and Drake. These are the schools in which Novato has had a better chance of beating (with only one goal losses against San Marin and San Rafael this year). 

However, the NCS tournament is played at the end of the soccer season, leaving MCAL play as the more prominent competition. One possible solution could be a series of round-robin tournaments among teams of the same skill, rather than size. The winner of each level could continue on to play each other, the second place teams play as well, leaving the losing teams to compete amongst themselves. This is only one idea of many possible solutions. 

There is no harm in creating more of a fair playing field for these sports. After all, they are meant to serve as an educational purpose while still allowing players to have fierce competition.