Years of attempts to get boys and girls soccer added as a certified sport at Ardmore High School finally paid off Tuesday evening.

The Ardmore Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the addition of boys and girls soccer during the monthly board meeting at Charles Evans Elementary School. 

Games will commence during the 2016-17 school year and will be played in the spring. All home games will be played at Noble Stadium. Prior to Tuesday, Ardmore had been the only Class 5A school without a soccer team.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Phil McGinnis, a committee member for the Ardmore Greater Oklahoma Association of League Soccer (G.O.A.L.S.), a premier youth soccer association based in Ardmore. G.O.A.L.S. president Brady Hunt, committee member Ryan Hobbs and past president Scott Mason were also present Tuesday.

One of the founding members of G.O.A.L.S., which was formed in 1999, McGinnis said that attempts to get soccer added at Ardmore go as far back as 1996. 

This year, he tried a different approach.

“Before, every time we’ve tried, it’s been approached with either just the athletic department or just with the admin,” he said. “This time, Brady (Hunter) and Scott (Mason), I’ve got to give them all of the credit, they went and met with some of the board members. We went there looking for a partnership. We weren’t demanding anything.” 

The latest attempt to add soccer at Ardmore was made when Hunt and Mason spoke with Board of Education Seat 5 member James Foreman at his induction ceremony shortly after he walked on unopposed to the five-person school board in February. 

The next board member that Hunt and Mason made contact was Clerk Lucinda Hull. 

Then, in a surprising turn of events, Hunt and Mason received a phone call from the school board, saying they would be interested in entertaining the thought of adding a soccer program at AHS.

“When that happened, we knew that we had something special,” Mason said. 

Added McGinnis, “We appreciate that the school board was open-minded.”

The growth of G.O.A.L.S. — from its infancy stages in the late 1990s to now where there are about 500 boys and girls in Ardmore and the surrounding area registered to play soccer — may have been one of the strongest pieces of evidence that high school soccer would function well both shortterm and long term.

“The soccer community is extremely giving and the parents and the people that represent the community are tremendous,” McGinnis said. “They stepped up and said, ‘Hey, we’re here for whatever the school needs.’ I don’t think the school board saw it as another group that wanted something. 

“It’s about 450 to 500 kids a season play soccer, year-round, two seasons a year. The community is heavily invested in it. And, I think the school board saw that whenever they saw the numbers.”

Moments after passage, School Board president Scott Carpenter told the celebratory crowd there are still “a lot of steps needed to implement the program,” such as ensuring there are clean and safe changing rooms. 

“The school district is diligently working to ensure everything is in working order,” he said. “Moving forward, there are a lot of exciting things, but it will take a team effort.”

Ardmore Schools Superintendent Sonny Bates hopes for a full crowd at the Tigers’ first home game in spring 2017 and a slew of activities will be planned to signal the start of high school soccer in Ardmore. 

Bates said the Tigers will play between eight to 10 non-district games as part of a shortened schedule in the program’s inaugural season. 

In addition, he added that Ardmore will likely will hire coaches who are already employed in the school district — a move which he said could help save the district in excess of $100,000.   

Mason plans on being in attendance for the home opener.

“I was driving by the stadium the other night, and I was sitting here thinking, we are a year way now from having the athletes take the field and Tiger soccer,” he said.