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Middle School soccer season sees big changes

posted Dec 1, 2016, 6:25 AM by Valerie Newton
The Bladen County Schools Bladen Five Middle School Conference soccer season began on November 22 with some major changes being implemented for the first time. 
Instead of each school fielding one co-ed team, each school will have both boys and girls soccer teams. The other big change will be ongoing as soccer will be the first middle school sport in Bladen County that will allow sixth graders to participate. 
Back on August 4th, the North Carolina State Board of Education which governs middle school athletics approved the change at their board meeting. Their decision allows sixth graders to play all middle school sports with the exception of football. 
Burt Jenkins of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction gave two reasons why the change was made. “Many schools, primarily charters, were not following the state board policy,” he said. “It was brought up to clarify the rule.” The second reason was that “parents and students made requests to the school boards to consider a change.”
As for the change to field separate girls and boys teams, East Bladen Coach Jay Raynor who has been instrumental in developing and improving soccer in Bladen County said, “It’s a win-win. You expand the program and get more kids participating. It will be tough on the middle school coaches who have to coach both teams but it will be good for soccer going forward.”
Bladenboro Middle Coach Steve Thurman said that for this season the boys hope to play 11 players on each team just like the high school. Right now the plan for the girls league is either to have 7 or 8 players on each team.