Korean soccer teams looking to avoid rust
Stars and Stripes
It’s as much a rite of passage as tax deadlines and Mongolian yellow dust for Seoul American, Osan American and Daegu soccer teams when their Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I Tournaments end in late April.
the Advanced Placement testing period begins. Everything shuts down, with teams permitted limited practices and no match preparation for Far East tournaments scheduled for May 21-25, right after AP tests.
This year, that “dead period” extends for three weeks. AP exams must start the first full week of May, which last year began on May 1 and this year starts on May 6.
While they understand that testing takes priority, for soccer diehards such as Daegu coach Ed Thompson and captain Carlota Cepria, it’s an exercise in frustration to go full speed during the KAIAC season, skid to a halt, then gear up again for Far East.
“Three weeks off and nobody to play,” Thompson said.
“We need all the practices and games we can get,” said Cepria, the Warriors’ goalkeeper. “People need to know about the situation and find ways to fix it. Something should have been done earlier to fix it.”
But how to fix it without upsetting the priority that AP testing gets those first two full weeks of May? That’s a tough one, says DODDS Pacific Far East athletics coordinator Don Hobbs.
“We understand the concern,” Hobbs said. “We’re in a unique situation that we deal with satisfactorily, but we can’t be satisfied with the status quo.”
Previously, Far East tournaments were held during AP test period and student-athletes could take their AP tests on the tournament host’s campus.
That changed five years ago when DODDS’ AP task force recommended no competition nor practice during the exam period.
“I told them that simply can’t happen,” Hobbs said.
An arrangement was hammered out. Practices would be limited and students with AP tests the next day would be excused entirely. No games before Friday of the first exam week and Wednesday of the second. No long-haul trips for games involving overnight stays would be allowed.
KAIAC’s constitution states that no out-of-season competition can be scheduled in a sport once its season ends; however, since some KAIAC teams attend Far East tournaments, they’re still considered “within the season,” KAIAC commissioner Daniel Hale said.
Hobbs and Hale each said it’s generally viewed by school administrators that the AP and International Baccalaureate test period is considered dead time. “They are sacred,” Hobbs said.
Hence, KAIAC schedules nothing in May. DODDS Korea’s budget supports no more than 14 regular-season KAIAC games plus the KAIAC tournament, with no money left for May friendly matches, DODDS Korea officials said.
While DODDS Korea baseball, track and field and softball – not KAIAC sports – continue through May 12, soccer teams are left out in the cold.
“We’re down here, nobody wants to come down here and we can’t finance a bus to go up there,” Thompson said of not being able to face Seoul or Osan American for non-league friendly matches to prepare for Far East.
“They’ll have to be creative in finding local teams or getting together on a Saturday at Osan or Camp Humphreys,” raising their own funds to play a weekend jamboree during, before or after AP tests, Hobbs said.
“They could start scheduling local teams to play us,” Cepria said of taking on Korean teams in Osan, Seoul and Daegu. “We have the field, it’s open on weekends.”
Thompson says he has advocated starting the school year two weeks earlier, which would have a domino effect of holding each sports season earlier and finishing Far East soccer in late April, which could attract more teams than under the current Far East setup.
“More international schools could participate and make the tournaments better; they’d be beating down the door if it was two weeks earlier,” he said. This year’s Far East Division I and II tournaments for boys and girls are fielding a combined 30 teams.
An earlier start to the DODDS school year would “definitely” help fix the problem, Hale said. “Every international school starts earlier than DODDS.”
That, among other recommendations, can be taken to the appropriate people, Hobbs said, adding that any solution carries some form of negative with it: “I don’t know what the solution is.”