It was a couple of years ago when, during a state tournament semifinal, I noticed something odd when looking over the bench areas.
“Where are the subs?” I texted for my halftime thoughts. I was amazed that neither of the teams had more than four outfield substitutes, yet had gotten themselves to within a game of the state final in a highly competitive area of the country.
This year, I’ve noticed a couple of instances where teams are being afforded only a very short bench. One team, which made the postseason a year ago with 14 seniors, didn’t have enough players this year for a full junior varsity team; the school is playing 7-on-7 for JV games.
Another doesn’t have enough players for even a junior varsity season. Still another has folded its varsity tent and is playing a JV season in hopes of improving numbers and skills for 2017.
Given what has happened with girls’ high school soccer in the United States over the last quarter-century, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened a lot sooner. There are very few youngsters who don’t know who Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, or Carli Lloyd are. They are the ones who get their teammates to buy gear and tickets to national-team games.
It’s hard to say the same about field hockey, even with the bump in interest in the national side during the Olympics.