Coaches dissatisfied with conference structure

This past year, the powers that be amended the structure of the middle school athletic programs. Instead of one big conference, they’ve split them into northern and southern — similar to the Henlopen Conference but with one stipulation: they can’t play outside their division.

And while it would seem to make sense both logistically and financially to make the schedule adjustment, there are some — particularly members of the Selbyville Middle School coaching staff — who would have preferred to keep the old schedule.

The argument against amending the schedules to play schools closer in proximity is that it takes away from having a competitive schedule.

The football team, for example, won’t play Mariner Middle (one of two Cape Henlopen school district middle schools) — a team that beat them convincingly last season and one for whom the Selbyville coaching staff and team has a great respect.

“Mariner is a team that we wanted to play again,” Selbyville assistant head football coach Tim Clausen complained. “We have a very competitive team and we want to play the best.”

They’re only allowed eight games on their schedule, so they’ll replace Mariner with Cambridge (Md.) Middle in their opener and continue to play Seaford, Woodbridge, Laurel, Beacon, Sussex Central, while playing Delmar twice. And now that Dover and Caesar Rodney middle schools are in the northern division, Selbyville has only one legitimate Division I school to compete against, in Sussex Central.

Head soccer coach Neil Barch agreed: “This will hurt our soccer program. We won’t get to play Caesar Rodney, Dover or Smyrna.”

The soccer team will play each team in its new conference twice, for a total of 14 games.

And while the coaches recognize the benefit of allowing their players to not have to leave class early to play games up-state and that it will save the school districts transportation costs, there is still an air of dissatisfaction with the change.

For one, Clausen and Barch both expressed a desire to be apart of the decision-making process. Clausen mentioned that he and his team would like to see a conference championship game or playoff system put in place, as well as enabling coaches to choose when they play certain games — specifically the Sussex Central game.

“One thing I don’t like is that we don’t play Sussex Central at the end of the year,” he said. “We really liked having that as our rivalry game, and the kids really looked forward to it. And also with football, we don’t necessarily have enough games. So it would be nice if we could play a championship game, or have a Sussex County playoff or something like that for the kids.”

And while Barch admitted that getting all the coaches from the two divisions together to hash out a schedule each year or season might be difficult, he said it would be in the best interests of competition.

“This is something that we’ve talked about doing for years,” Barch said of meeting to discuss scheduling. “Then the coaches could meet in the preseason and could decide if they’re going to have a good team or not. Then they could split [the divisions or scheduling] it that way.

“I could see how that would be a nightmare for an athletic director and that it would be a lot more work, in addition to the ton of stuff we already have to do. But it would be good for competition,” he added.

Selbyville Middle School and, more specifically, the boys soccer team will kick off the fall sports season Oct. 19, with an away match at Delmar Middle School. The football team will travel to Cambridge Middle on Oct. 20, and the field hockey team will host its — and the school’s — first home game of the season on Oct. 21.