No Varsity Football at Lomira, Partially Thanks to Soccer
By By Jay Sorgi
A local high school has to go without varsity football, partially because too many students want to play soccer.
"That team this year has 35 on it," said Shannon Stein, the principal of Lomira High School.
Compare that to the number of football players at any level at the school.
"We had 3 seniors and 10 juniors, 5 sophomores and 16 freshmen."
Doing the math, that's 34 students, most of whom are underclassmen, generally smaller teenagers.
"Unfortunately, we don't feel that we have the numbers to compete safely at the varsity level this school year," explains Stein.
"That just isn't a competitive amount of students to safely put out on a football field against a football team that has better numbers.
"One of the freshmen on the team is 5' 3". You consider that putting up against a full-grown senior male. That is something that is just not considered a safe option."
More Out for Soccer, Not Because of Safety, but Youth Programs
The biggest reason not enough students want to play football could have to do with the number that want to play the European version of the game - soccer.
"They have an exceptionally good grassroots soccer program," says Stein of the well-established system that produces a high-proportion of soccer-loving athletes in Lomira.
"It was a grassroots effort that started with parents at the kindergarten level who ran an exceptionally good youth program, and when the kids got to the high school level, one of the parents volunteered her time to coach, and that team has 35 on it.
"If you consider a student who might otherwise participate in football because they wanted to be in an athletic sports, and that includes our cross country, in a school our size, that's definitely something that adds to the concern of numbers.
"Football by its very nature, ideally you have 11 on either side of the ball, and then some backups to that. Obviously, the demand is much greater."
Still Some Football at Lomira This Year
Stein says for the 34 students who have enough love of the gridiron to play this year, they have secured a junior varsity and freshman seasons for them, including the three seniors who otherwise would never be allowed to play at the JV level.
"Only one of them had been a returning senior who had some experience," states Stein.
"The other two had not played since either their middle school or freshman year. As far as their skill level, even though they're senior boys, they're not super-big in size."
It's not an unusual problem for schools their size, not only in more rural areas, but Milwaukee. Shorewood and Messmer High Schools have combined their football teams for nearly a decade.
"One of our neighboring conference schools had not had a program for two years for almost the same reason. There's a certain amount of understanding in the conference, and we're fortunate that both the athletic directors and coaches are willing to bend and allow those seniors and juniors a chance to play a the junior varsity level."
What About the Future?
"We're going to look at our numbers to see what we can do to increase participation by our students. The other things we know is that we knew there were two small classes coming in. We could project the middle school and youth program participation is to see if (combining programs with another school is) something that's even necessary."
Since is normal football job is gone for the year, Stein says head football coach Shawn Schraufnagel now has a new job for this season.
"He's still quite busy," contends Stein.
"Up until a few years ago, our kids didn't have an opportunity to play football until the 8th grade year. We were losing kids who weren't making an educated choice one way or the other, because they were exposed to one sport and were proficient and stayed with that sport.
"He is focusing some of his energies to starting a new youth program with flag football for the elementary and then working on fortifying those numbers at the middle school, freshman and JV levels."