The Georges Valley High School field hockey program currently is in flux. And while it appears the Buccaneers may not be donning their standard green-and-white uniforms in the fall, perhaps the more important question is not whether student-athletes from that school will play the sport, but where will they play?

The Georges Valley and Thomaston Grammar School field hockey programs were eliminated during a Regional School Unit 13 Board meeting Feb. 4, said Jim Leonard, Rockland District High School athletic and student activities director.

To soften the blow from that development, student-athletes from Georges Valley and Thomaston Grammar School who want to play field hockey probably will be able to do so with Rockland.

It is the second time in the last three years the Buccaneer field hockey program has been proposed to be cut, albeit under different circumstances. The program was nearly axed in the spring of 2008 as both a cost-cutting measure and due to limited participation. However, the program rebounded with two more seasons before this latest development.

While low numbers and the ability to save money is again a driving force in the movement, another significant variable is the pending upcoming consolidation of Rockland District High School and Georges Valley High School for the 2011-2012 school year. At that point, all high school athletic programs from both schools will combine.

Given the fact that both schools, and their athletic programs, now operate under RSU 13 and that the Buc field hockey program has seen somewhat smaller numbers the past few years, both Leonard and Georges Valley assistant principal/athletic director Ed Hastings are in the process of appealing to the Maine Principals’ Association to allow the Rockland and Georges Valley teams to become a cooperative team for the 2010-11 school year.

If the MPA, which governs all member high school athletic programs, rules in favor of the proposal, the teams would combine at the beginning of the 2010 fall season and will go by the name “Rockland-Georges Valley.”

The proposal will be submitted to the MPA on Friday, Feb. 12, and Leonard said he assumes it will be placed on the agenda for that organization’s interscholastic management committee in the near future.

Georges Valley principal Rob Beverage and Rockland District High School principal Tom Forti, along with the RSU 13 Board and the MPA, would all need to approve the proposal for the field hockey teams to combine.

The proposed cooperative high school field hockey team would be only a one-year situation, Unless RSU 13 reverses its vote, the two local high schools will officially be combined in both the classrooms and the field of athletics the following year.

At this point, there is a process to combine the field hockey programs at the two high schools. While no other sports programs at the two high schools will be combined at this time, Georges Valley student-athletes will be allowed to play football for Rockland next fall. Georges Valley does not offer football.

Also, Thomaston Grammar School students who want to play field hockey can now play with Rockland District Middle School.

The Georges Valley field hockey squad has compiled a record of 6-92 over the past six seasons, with no regional playoff appearances. Rockland, by comparison, while also lower in player numbers at points in recent years, has a record of 42-53-3, but has gone 4-10 in its last three seasons.

“We’re just trying to afford an opportunity for kids to play field hockey,” said Hastings.

“Our intention isn’t to create a ‘super-team,’ ” said Leonard. “Our intention is to give a number of kids that otherwise won’t have an opportunity to play the sport they love, to give them that chance. We’re not looking to win any gold balls or conference championships. We’re just looking to allow kids an opportunity to play. Especially now that we are all under the same umbrella and specifically now that it appears that we are headed toward a consolidated high school sometime in the near future. This will give fans from Georges Valley and Rockland a chance to cheer together.”

Leonard said this cooperative team would likely ease the transition of consolidation for many of the students in both schools.

The likely sticking point for the MPA would be that the two teams will not have completed two years in a non-varsity capacity, which is the norm for all teams either consolidating, returning to or initially joining the MPA. Teams can compete in a club-team capacity during those two years and are eligible to compete against junior varsity high school programs. Then, after those two years, the program could become a varsity team. However, during the two-year, club-team status, the cooperative team would be unable to participate in league or regional playoffs.

Leonard said he plans to ask the MPA to waive the two-year, club-team rule given the circumstances, and feels RSU 13 has a compelling case given the fact the two schools are already headed for consolidation.

Despite the fact that the GVHS and TGS field hockey programs were nixed, Hastings said he is still including the varsity field hockey program in his proposed budget for the activities committee. This may be in case the MPA does not rule in favor of the proposed consolidation of the two high school teams, giving Georges Valley a chance to still salvage the field hockey program should the number of participants warrant it.

If the MPA grants Georges Valley and Rockland the right to consolidate their programs, Hastings said the GVHS field hockey program would be deleted from the proposed budget he is submitting.

If the MPA rejects the cooperative proposal, Georges Valley will hold a sign-up at the school to determine whether the team would have sufficient numbers. Hastings would not elaborate on how many players would be sufficient, but said there should be enough players so that there is not a safety concern.

The cutting of the GVHS and TGS field hockey programs will save RSU 13 $7,000 to 10,000 dollars, said Leonard.

Numbers of players for the Georges Valley field hockey program have been low the past few years. Last year, the Bucs had 20 student-athletes come out for the sport, and have had a lukewarm response from students as to their intentions to play next year, Hastings said. Last year, many players often played both varsity and jayvee games.

Hastings said with some GVHS students who played field hockey graduating in the spring and a foreign exchange student who played on the team returning home, on top of a few athletes who quit the program midyear and a few “fence-sitters,” the numbers for this upcoming year could be as low as eight for a potential GVHS field hockey team.

Schools cannot apply for cooperative status with the MPA unless at least one of the two programs in question is inactive.

Home games for any cooperative team would be played on the field behind Rockland District High School and the squad also would use Rockland uniforms. The cooperative team play in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division, where the Tigers currently play. Georges Valley plays in the Mountain Valley Conference and is a Class C school.

Leonard said the expense to add any Georges Valley student-athletes to the Rockland program would be minimal, which would essentially be the cost of additional uniforms. Rockland field hockey coach Joanna Hall would coach the team, he said, as Georges Valley coach Lisa Hall removed her name from consideration to coach next season.

Both Leonard and Hastings echoed the same sentiments that their number one concern is that the student-athletes who wish to play field hockey next year for Georges Valley be able to play.

“Those kids at Georges Valley deserve a chance to play what they love,” said Leonard. “There are a number of those kids that are very committed, dedicated to the sport and they deserve a chance to play and we can provide them with that opportunity. Given that we are in the same RSU it would be pretty irresponsible for us to turn our heads and ignore them.”

“We are partnered with Rockland now, ” said Hastings. “They have a program and this would allow an opportunity [for these kids]. I honestly think that 5-8 kids might venture across the river, so to speak, to play at Rockland in the KVAC in Class B. And that’s good. That’s what we want. We just want these kids to have the opportunity to play.”

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