Rylee Whiteside walked into Jordan athletic director Jeff Vizenor’s office four years ago as a shy yet determined seventh-grader. Whiteside had a goal of getting soccer added as a sport at the high school level.
Her vision will see light this fall when the girls’ and boys’ soccer programs play their initial varsity games. They both played a junior varsity schedule last year.
“I was really happy once we finally added soccer,” Whiteside said. “It’s my favorite sport, hands down.”
Whiteside, a junior, grew up playing summer soccer in the Shakopee association. Her mother, Robin, is a guidance counselor at Jordan.
“I really liked soccer,” Whiteside said. “I wanted to play it more than just in the summer.”
Instead, she found herself running cross-country in the fall until the school board approved the addition of the sport in July 2014.
“There wasn’t enough interest at first,” Whiteside said. “We needed to get more participants. I was a little frustrated.”
The number of girls (grades 7 through 12) has ballooned from 24 to 47 while the number of boys (grades 8 through 12) has increased from 26 to 48 in a one-year span.
“The number of students who have shown interest in the sport is awesome,” Vizenor said. “It’s also been a lot of students who weren’t participating in another fall sport.”
That also presents the biggest challenge for girls’ coach Janae Vogel and boys’ mentor Jesus Camacho Ruiz.
“I’m in a very unique situation,’’ Vogel said. “I had 24 girls on our team last year, with only two ever playing soccer before. Some had never participated in any sports. This year, I have 20 returning players and 27 who are new to the team. Of this, 26 of them have never played soccer. I’m teaching these girls a new game from the basics to the in-depth as fast as possible.”
Camacho Ruiz is elated to have the opportunity to build the program from the ground up. There isn’t a youth program or association in town.
“I’m thankful to Jordan for choosing me to be the first varsity coach,” Camacho Ruiz said. “It’s bittersweet to know that I will be helping build a new program for Jordan, and I am humble for it. It will be tough and there is a lot of work to do, but we have a great group of student athletes who have a high work ethic and drive to learn.”
Both coaches are putting an emphasis on fun.
“I want to show my student-athletes the passion I have for the sport,’’ Camacho Ruiz said. “I want them to remember how fun it was to play and learn, so they can pass it on to future student-athlete generations.”
The school’s two soccer practice fields are ideally situated between the high school and elementary school in Jordan. The teams will play home games in the football stadium.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the progression,” said senior Alex Crawford Hansen, who hadn’t played soccer until joining the boys’ team a year ago. “The program will get better once the younger kids start getting involved.”
Not to mention, see their first varsity game. The boys’ team opened its season in St. Peter on Saturday. The girls’ squad will host Southwest Christian on Tuesday.
“I’m just thankful they added soccer at our school,” said junior Cody Anton, one of the more skilled players in the boys’ program. “Now we have a soccer family.”