Preliminary hearings will be heard in federal court Thursday, Oct. 17th about a MHSAA rule change that could change the game of prep soccer in Mississippi and force high school students to pick between playing for their school or their select team.
For MHSAA sports, no more than half a team's starters can play on the same select (competitive) squad. It's a rule that was implemented in 2006, but soccer has always been exempt because the sport would be affected differently from others.
"The idea of the rule is to not have your whole high school team playing together year round," said Meridian High School girls soccer coach Mike Smith.
This means that if a high school team has six players good enough to play on the same select team, one of those six will either have to find a different select team -an option which could be only be available in another city- or make that very difficult decision.
"It's making kids choose high school or select," said Smith.
West Lauderdale boys soccer assistant coach Scott Gray is also unhappy with the potential rule change.
"We're hurting here because they can't play for the rec' teams," says Gray. "In some of the bigger markets, some of these kids are getting looked at by colleges through their rec teams much more so than their high school teams, so they're electing NOT to play high school ball."
"College coaches go to club tournaments to recruit," said Smith. "Very rarely do you go to high school gamest to recruit."
Both coaches believe that high school competition will suffer at a time when Mississippi prep soccer is on the rise.
"Kids are going to get good by playing select, by playing competitive soccer," said Smith. "High school's only two and a half months out of the year. Club ball is a totally different animal. It's year round, the training's better."
"For us, it's a little better," said Gray. "But in a market like Philadelphia [MS]... in which only really two of the schools have good solid programs of soccer, where they might have a rec' team... now they can't even field a team!"