St. Regis Falls Evan Wheaton/Malone Telegram

ST. REGIS FALLS – The St. Regis Falls Board of Education gave the go-ahead for varsity and junior varsity soccer programs to begin practices, which are scheduled to begin Sept. 24.

Both boys and girls varsity, as well as girls junior varsity, will carry out their fall seasons. Boys junior varsity was dropped for the fall.

“Due to lack of interest, no participation,” St. Regis Falls Athletic Director Wilbur Bailey said on the reasoning for the program to not move forward. “The board was fully ready to go with all four teams if there were numbers.”

The boys varsity soccer team will currently field just 12 players. There are five juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen.

Bailey, who coaches the boys team, has communicated that there is still a need for students to join the boys soccer program and that they can contact him for sign-ups.

“There’s still room for any high school kid that wants to play,” Bailey said. “There are some kids that are remote-learning. We tried to reach out the best we could. For us, we have an increase of students up here.

“There might be that kid we don’t know who moved into the district that wants to play. But, at least we’ll get going.”

The low participation rate is due in part to the coronavirus, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Saints have worked with thinned ranks.

“We have dealt with low numbers for the boys the past three-four years. It is going to be hard on the kids, but the last few years, if there’s one thing my kids have never done, they won’t quit,” Bailey said. “Most of the juniors have played three years; most of these kids have come up through the ranks and played soccer at least two-three years.”

But with no junior varsity, new concerns have been raised over the boys program long term.

“You have to have some kind of feeder program to feed varsity. You do,” Bailey said.

The board meeting was held over the Web with roughly 30 people, a good turnout for St. Regis Falls. It was stressed that everyone had to do their part in order to have seasons for the student-athletes.

With students’ mental health being a main concern for many schools across the nation, and soccer being the only sport offered in the fall at St. Regis Falls, the board is leaning heavily on the guidelines given by the Department of Health.

“These kids want to do something. They do. The 12-year-old, 13-year-old boy or girl who doesn’t have their driver’s license can’t go anywhere,” Bailey said. “They weren’t even supposed to use the basketball court or go to the school, so really, these kids are looking for something to do.”

An abbreviated season, low participation and no junior varsity program have given a bleak outlook on the fall season. As coaches begin practices in the North Country, they understand that seasons may come to an abrupt end at any point.

“All it takes is one COVID case here or there and they don’t have to worry because we’ll be shut down two weeks,” Bailey said. “And with the abbreviated season, two weeks means we may not even bring it back.”

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