Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, Marietta Public Schools will be adding a new extracurricular activity: soccer. The addition was unanimously approved at January’s regular meeting of the Board of Education.

Soccer as a school sport had been discussed for several years, and although student interest was strong, the district didn’t feel like they had the parental involvement necessary to begin a new sport.

“Launching a new school sport is a tremendous undertaking,” said Superintendent Brandi Naylor, “but once we had parents come to us with the desire to start a program along with a plan to help build and sustain the program long-term, there was no doubt that it would succeed.”

Naylor went on to explain that statistics show that students perform better academically and also have better attendance and fewer discipline issues when they are involved in school activities.

Soccer will be launched in the coming spring by supporting Marietta soccer teams’ participation in the GOALS league for boys and girls of all ages with volunteer-coached teams. This will give the district a better idea about which student groups are serious about playing school soccer.

Meanwhile, the district will begin a search for coaches, which they hope to have in place by summer. That would give coaches the summer to secure necessary equipment and uniforms and schedule boys and girls seasons to begin in the spring of 2024.

Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, high school students interested in soccer will be able to enroll in athletics to practice and play competitive soccer. The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association will require the high school team to play as a junior varsity team for the first two years, granting the program time for growth.

Because there are few area schools of a similar size as Marietta who field middle school soccer teams, middle school student athletes will continue to participate in league soccer for the foreseeable future until expansion into the middle school is feasible.

Naylor said that Athletic Director Alex Doby was instrumental in creating the plan to implement a soccer program.

“We’re in a good place to start a soccer team now,” remarked Doby. “I have coached soccer before and Coach [Ryan] Keeton helped to get the soccer program started at Ardmore High School, so we both have some experience that can help get it going here. I believe that our student athletes can really benefit from this program.”

Doby is excited about the number of students he’s had asking about soccer.

“Most of the time, kids don’t even know when school board meetings are,” he smiled, “but I’ve never had so many kids excited about a school board meeting before.”

Naylor also expressed gratitude to local parents Connor Choate and Keenan Billy for their knowledge, input, and willingness to help the school through the rollout of the new program.

“Our hope is that soccer will appeal to students who may not be involved in other supports or school activities but may be looking for a way to get involved,” Naylor stated.