State of the City   Leave a comment

The first two Saturdays in May brought the eleven Milwaukee Public Schools girls’ soccer teams to South Stadium and Bradley Tech High School for a pair of divisional tournaments, with the Schissler (2nd) Division playing on May 2nd and the Williams (1st) Division on May 9th.  Small surprises came in the Schissler results (Milwaukee School of Languages’ JV team drawing their matches with Carmen and Bradley Tech’s varsities, Tech winning their pool and advancing to the final), but in the end South Division showed why they are fighting to be promoted to the Williams Division in 2016 with three solid victories to win the tournament (2-0 over Madison, 10-0 over Washington, and 4-0 over Tech in the final).  In the Williams tournament, pool play ran to form (King and Reagan swept their opponents), but in the final Reagan would pick up its first-ever win over King, 1-0.  The loss to Reagan was King’s first stumble against an MPS opponent since dropping a shootout to Pulaski in the 2007 City tournament final.  The tournaments shine for a brief moment a positive light on a soccer landscape within MPS that is struggling on so many levels and which affects all its schools in one way or another.

The state of girls’ soccer in the Milwaukee Public Schools has been for most of its existence a case of a couple of teams succeeding at the expense of the rest, as no school other than King or Riverside has won a conference championship and only a handful of schools able to develop and maintain a sustainable varsity-level program.  The disparity between the top and the bottom of the MPS pecking order is vast, but there are different issues of concern amongst those schools.  For the ones at the top, it’s about being competitive outside the bounds of the city.  The next tier’s issue is how to close the gap to those top schools.  Further down, foci may include how to replicate the success of the academically-centered schools in the top tier(s), how to utilize the school’s demographics and location to foster a “playing culture” as their program’s foundation (one that runs counter to the academically-driven model of advancement), or how to build their programs to survive and compete.

In MPS, much like in women’s soccer as a whole, money (or its equivalent) matters, mirroring the problems with “pay-to-play” in the private sports sector.   The schools with “resources” (be they financial, structural, human, or demographic) are able to do well, whereas those without such benefits are resigned to a less-successful existence.  Additionally, the bleeding of these resources (either from certain neighborhoods/school zones to others or outside the city borders) place an effective cap on the ability of most schools to rise through the ranks or to shake off a period of decline, not to mention the ability of those at the top to keep pace with their suburban competition.  Academics drive EVERYTHING when it comes to girls’ soccer success in MPS, with that factor drawing the aforementioned resources which allow certain schools to be successful.  Of the six teams in the Williams Division, all but one of them involve schools that are college-preparatory (King, Reagan, and Riverside) or have a niche academic focus (School of Languages, School of the Arts, MacDowell Montessori, and Meir Montessori; Arts and MacDowell co-op with Pulaski, Meir co-ops with Riverside).  Pulaski is holding its own in its first year in the upper division, utilizing its long-standing co-op agreement with School of the Arts and its recent one with MacDowell Montessori to bridge the gap to the three college-prep schools.  School of Languages’ niche existence is both a blessing and a curse.  Being a 6-12 school, MSL is able to run an effective middle school soccer program and thus develop a pipeline for its high school teams.  The school’s small size places it in Division 3 for WIAA tournament assignment, which has the potential to be a boon.  On the other hand, that small base of students combined with a lack of 9th-grade influx to the school makes them wholly dependent on the niche draw they have and the in-house pipeline.  Their boys’ team co-oped with Vincent this past fall, but the schools’ combined population moved MSL from Division 3 to Division 1 for the state tournament and thus defeats their position in the MPS landscape as its only program in either Division 3 or Division 4 for the WIAA tournament.

So where does this leave us?  I believe a girls’ soccer summit needs to be held, one that we’d be excited to host/moderate.  Stakeholders in the future of the game in Milwaukee should meet to discuss both our mutual concerns regarding soccer in the city as well as the unique challenges faced at our places in it.  Such stakeholders might include:  the eleven MPS schools (and their co-op partners) currently playing girls’ soccer as well as other schools that might have interest; parents of current (and future?) high school players; the Milwaukee Board of School Directors; and the Milwaukee Soccer Development Group.  These entities, coming together with a common desire to elevate girls’ soccer in MPS, hopefully would create a larger discussion about academics, life circumstances, and how to best help our girls advance their personal and professional goals through high school soccer and help their schools grow the game in MPS.  If you’d like to be involved, email us at milwaukeeunitedsc@gmail.com.

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Posted May 12, 2015 by Scott in Uncategorized

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