With a 4-3 decision Thursday night, a proposed soccer co-op between Belgrade and Manhattan was voted down by trustees at the Belgrade School Board meeting.
It was a decision that “shocked” Belgrade Activities Director Rick Phillips, who had proposed the cooperative to the board in April.
“I really thought it was a slam dunk. But that’s what I get for I guess not preparing enough to really go in and sell it,” he said. “I really just thought that if anybody had any questions, I’ve done everything they’ve asked.”
Belgrade’s soccer programs have seen a decline in participation in recent years, and with moving up to Class AA this past fall, Phillips felt a co-op would help in rebuilding numbers. There will likely be less than 30 players within the boys and girls’ programs (each) this fall.
“If we got the Manhattan players (four girls and two boys — all underclassmen) that we were planning we’d be right at about 30 players for both programs,” said Phillips. “And all of our coaches, ideally, said that they would like to have around 18 on a team (varsity and JV). So that would be 36 players. We have plenty of room for them to be part of the program.”
A survey was sent out to returning players, Phillips said, and more than 70 percent were in favor of a co-op. But there were some concerns raised by parents.
Phillips noted he was contacted about the team name, logo and colors should Belgrade enter into the cooperative.
“That was the only thing that came up a couple of different times (was) people saying, ‘Well we’re going to have to change our name. We can’t be called the Belgrade Panthers,’” Phillips said. “No that’s not true.”
In fact, the programs would retain their logo, colors and name. The only change would occur during the postseason when the teams would be listed as “Belgrade-Manhattan” in programs.
The only other issue Phillips fielded was from parents concerned about Manhattan athletes possibly taking varsity positions from Belgrade players.
“They wouldn’t keep a Belgrade person from being part of the program,” Phillips said. “They could possibly keep a Belgrade person from being on the varsity.”
Should numbers not increase within the program following the 2020 campaign, Phillips said he’d be willing to propose the co-op again next year.
“You can present it every year. Its not going to help us going into this season,” he said. “I would do it again and put it out there. I would do it again if our numbers stay exactly where they are. Now if our numbers grow and we don’t need it, of course, then I wouldn’t.”