Clarksville, Ark. --- The popular Alumni Soccer Match and Reunion is being moved to April to better accommodate both the former players and the current teams.
There will be a men’s soccer match between the current team and alumni at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, April 17. The women’s soccer team will be out of town that weekend and will not be able to hold an alumni match then. The plan is for both the men’s and women’s alumni matches to be held in April each year. In addition, a co-ed soccer “homecoming” of sorts is tentatively scheduled to be held in conjunction with a Sept. 18 soccer match.
Former soccer players and current Alumni Board of Director members Paul Hiemke ’02, Eric Steinmiller ’02, and Jeff Jackson ’01 spearheaded the efforts to move the alumni matches to the spring in order to help the popular event continue to grow and thrive.
“The alumni soccer match is an event that we’re very proud of and we all have a tremendous love for the soccer program and the university,” said Steinmiller. “Moving the game to April is only going to make it better for everyone involved.”
Former players first organized the alumni soccer matches in the early 2000s and the event, which pitted alumni vs. the current team, became an annual August event.
Hiemke said that August was not the ideal time of the year to hold the alumni matches and that moving it to April should help attendance.
“First, you have the sweltering heat and, as we’ve gotten older, we have found it’s tougher and tougher to play in that heat,” Hiemke said. “Another big consideration is that a spring date seems to be better time of the year for young alumni to attend. A lot of people are starting graduate school or a new job in the fall and it’s just hard for them to get there. From the young alumni that we’ve talked to, the spring just works out better.”
Jackson, who was a part of the men’s soccer program’s first recruiting class, said former players continue to take tremendous pride in the program.
“Some of us have been there from the beginning and we’ve been a part of its growth and success,” he said. “Anything we can do to help the current team and the current players, we are happy to do. I think from a team standpoint, it makes more sense to have the alumni game in April because the team isn’t in a rush to get ready for the season and you don’t have the risk of getting a player hurt right before the season.”
Ozarks Men’s Soccer Coach John Cossaboon, who just completed his first year at the University, said he has been pleased by the support of the former players to the program.
“I’ve coached at enough places to know that the kind of involvement and support that our alumni show for the program here is unique and special,” Cossaboon said. “There is a culture and tradition here where former players stay connected to the program. They take pride in the soccer program and want to stay involved, and that is a wonderful benefit for our program and for our current players.”
Cossaboon said moving the alumni match to the spring will help his team with scheduling issues since the NCAA limits the number of matches a team can play in the fall. He also believes the move will help former players and current players get to know each other even better.
“In the fall, it’s just before the start of the season and there are a lot of things going on like the start of school,” Cossaboon said. “It’s just a busy time. Now, playing in the spring, we can prepare for it, we’re not rushed, and we can take the time for the players to really get to know one another. It’s just a better fit.”