DEER ISLE—The girls soccer team at Deer Isle-Stonington High School is getting players from an unlikely source, as low female enrollment numbers this year have left only 40 students eligible for the soccer and cross-country teams, according to athletic director Chris Talbot. Because of this, 8th grade students at Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School will be allowed to join the varsity programs a year early.
Under Maine Principals Association guidelines, high schools are allowed to draft 8th grade students if there is below 60 males or females in the school. Talbot said he contacted the MPA directors to explain the situation and received permission before starting the process.
The practice of drafting 8th grade students to fill out rosters at the high school level is not uncommon among smaller schools in Maine, said DISHS head soccer coach Elissa Haskell.
“I’ve seen it done in basketball and soccer with many of the small schools we play across the state,” Haskell wrote in an email. “Usually parents and fans can’t even tell by watching these teams which girls are in 8th grade. Coaches know because they see the roster.”
Haskell said that if there would not have been enough players to fill the team this year, thereby forfeiting the season, the school would not be able to have a team next year as well.
“Sports are very important for these young women, not just from a health aspect, but also because of the bonds and friendships they form. Playing sports also builds character, work ethic, and leadership skills. None of this will happen if we let our girls program crumble,” she said.
Haskell added that one issue that has transpired this season is that some of her players have not showed up to every practice, making them unconditioned for an 80-minute soccer game.
“On any other team, these players would simply not be put on the field,” she said. “Playing an 80-minute soccer game when you aren’t properly conditioned can easily lead to an overuse injury. Without subs there is nothing the coach can do. Having more players solves this problem and takes pressure off individual players to push through injury to help the team.”
The 8th grade players started practicing with the varsity team Monday, September 19. Haskell said she will treat these girls just like she would incoming freshmen, giving them a little extra time to learn the ropes.
“I have some great leaders on this team and I know everyone will work to make the new players welcome. Everything they learn from playing up this season will just mean we will be that much further ahead next season,” she said.