UPDATE | Poca High School boys soccer season back on after cancellation

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POCA, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 9/11/19 @ 1:25 p.m.
The Poca High School boys soccer season for 2019 is back on after a cancellation due to not having the minimum number of players.

The Poca High School boys soccer season for 2019 is back on after a cancellation due to not having the minimum number of players. (Source: WSAZ)

A school district spokesperson says the team was reinstated after adding a new student to the team -- an exchange student who enrolled at the high school this week.

The Putnam County Schools Athletic Policy and Procedures Manual says a soccer program must have at least 15 athletes. These numbers were developed by Putnam County personnel office and secondary schools in order to maintain student safety and equity in sports.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, the director of Administrative Services received a call about a concern with the lack of student athletes on Poca's High School's boys soccer team. Officials followed up immediately and found the program only had 14 players on the roster.

The district spokeswoman says an exchange student interested in boys soccer enrolled at the school Monday, Sept. 9.

According to the district's athletic policies, there are only a few exceptions for students to join a team that has already practiced for one week: The student was injured during the first week and has a doctor's excuse, the student becomes academically eligible at the nine weeks grading period, or the student moves into the school zone and meets all eligibility requirements.

The spokeswoman says the district was notified about the exchange student's interest in joining the soccer team late Tuesday. After confirming he is eligible with the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) on Wednesday, school district administrators "began working with Poca High administration to reinstate the boys soccer team."

Putnam County Schools Communications and Events Coordinator Micah Osborne says the high school administration then contacted the soccer coach to let him know the team could resume scheduling practices and games.

"The Poca High School boys soccer team's season was unfortunately canceled last Thursday due to not meeting the minimum number of student-athletes on the program's roster required as per policy," said Osborne. "Putnam County Schools understands the value and impact extracurricular activities offer students by instilling lessons on and off the field. We are excited to see this program of young student-athletes have this opportunity. We wish all our Putnam Fall Sports Programs a safe and successful remainder of the season."

ORIGINAL STORY 9/6/19
The Poca High School boys soccer season for 2019 has been cancelled.

According to Putnam County Schools, it's because they did not reach the minimum number of athletes on the team.

"At first I didn't believe it, I didn't know what to think," said Ty Smith, a senior and team captain. "Then once I started getting more information, I didn't know what to do, I was devastated."

On Thursday, the director of Administrative Services received a call about a concern with the lack of student athletes on Poca's high school boys soccer team. The person says the team only had about eight or nine athletes playing in a game.

Officials followed up immediately and school administration says the program only had 14 players on the roster.

The Putnam County Schools Athletic Policy and Procedures Manual says a soccer program must have at least 15 athletes. These numbers were developed by Putnam County personnel office and secondary schools in order to maintain student safety and equity in sports.

Putnam County Schools officials say if a program doesn't meet minimum numbers, the school administration must apply for a waiver before the season begins.

"When I was a freshman I dreamed of seeing all the seniors walk down the track and everything and now that I"m a senior, I was thinking great now I get to do that and now I'm not going to be able to. It's just ripped away from me," Smith said.

School administrators, athletic directors and coaches are aware of the policies and were reinforced during an athletic directors meeting in May. Officials with the school say a representative from Putnam County
attended the meeting.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance, but we don't want and of course the school doesn't want the athletes to play when they're in circumstances that jeopardize their safety," said Superintendent John Hudson.

The Communications and Events Coordinator tells WSAZ, "It is a school's responsibility to ensure that policy and procedures are implemented as outlined in district policy. This is an extremely unfortunate circumstance but should have been addressed at the school-level as outlined in the athletic policy and procedures put in place."