Paragould, AR (Paragould Daily-Press) - Crowley's Ridge College is adding a new sport — men's soccer — in 2011.
CRC Athletic Director Paul McFadden said the Pioneers will kick off the school's inaugural soccer season in the fall of 2011.
"We're going to jump in and play this fall. It will definitely be a program built from scratch," McFadden said. "But we're excited about doing it."
McFadden said soccer is "a growing sport" in Northeast Arkansas, adding that the college has been looking into the possibility of adding the sport to its athletic program for a while.
"We've been exploring it for two or three years. We've been trying to find the right personnel; that's been the issue," McFadden said.
McFadden said CRC has hired Paragould resident Casey Pratt as the school's first soccer coach. The 26-year-old Pratt is a 2002 graduate of Crowley's Ridge Academy, where he was named to the all-conference team twice and was an all-state selection in his senior year.
"I'm extremely excited, this is exactly what I've wanted to do. I never thought it would happen this quickly, especially only being 26 years old," Pratt said of his hiring.
McFadden said Pratt, who will graduate from CRC in the spring with a bachelor's degree in business, has officiated soccer matches for 10 years and will be assisting with the CRA soccer team this spring.
"Casey [has] had a lot of experience in the game from playing and refereeing. He'll be at the coaching end of it, so hopefully be able to work with him on [recruiting]," McFadden said. "You have to teach any [new] coach coming in. They have to learn about the recruiting game. That's just an important part of college athletics."
Pratt said his father, David Pratt, who is a longtime soccer referee and a former CRA coach, will assist him on a volunteer basis in the 2011 season. He said his dad started the CRA soccer program and he's looking forward to having the same opportunity at CRC.
"It's pretty cool getting to do this," Casey Pratt said. "CRA soccer did not exist until he started the team and now I'm going to be starting CRC's. I find that super cool."
McFadden said Pratt, along with the school's admissions department, has already started the process of contacting potential soccer recruits. He said, in the first season, he would like to see the Pioneers field a 22-man squad but no less than 15 players.
"Through the years we've had a lot of interest from [students] asking if we have soccer, and it was always: 'No, we don't.' We think it's something we can recruit for, with a little bit of scholarship money. With them able to use that along with other scholarship money, like a Challenge Scholarship and other money the state offers. A lot of local kids, some of basketball players do that, and it provides a good package for someone not staying on campus. We hope to recruit them for a lot of different directions," McFadden said.
McFadden is in the process of completing the Pioneers' schedule for next year. He said he's already lined up matches with Central Baptist College and St. Louis Christian and would like to schedule area rivals like Williams Baptist College.
CRC has reached an agreement with the Paragould Parks and Recreation Department to play its home matches in its inaugural season on the soccer fields at the Paragould Community Center, according to McFadden.
He said the Pioneers will eventually play their home games on campus once a location is determined and a field is constructed.
CRC is a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association. The Pioneers' softball and baseball programs joined the league three years ago and the men's basketball program is in its first season of competition as an NCCAA Division I, four-year school.
McFadden said soccer tryouts will be scheduled at a later date. Those interested in more information regarding the soccer program should contact McFadden or the school's admissions department at 236-6901.