Junior varsity programs integral to players


by Sara Sonderman

What happens when you come to college to play a sport, but the sport you are competing in already has a handful of extra participants? One option is to quit. The other option is hoping your sport has a strong junior varsity program.

A number of sports at Simpson have junior varsity programs. The men’s soccer team is the latest addition with 34 players on this year’s roster.

“It was extremely important for us to add a junior varsity program,” said Head Soccer Coach Aziz Haffar. “With only one team it is hard for players to get the playing time they need to develop.”

Several sports at Simpson has something similar to a junior varsity program. The size of the team typically determines whether or not a junior varsity squad will form. In tennis, only six players are allowed at a varsity meet. Often times, however, if agreed on by the coaches, they will set up extra matches that aren’t included in team scoring.

“When I first came to Simpson in 1985, they only played 10 junior varsity basketball games,” said Head Men’s Basketball Coach Bruce Wilson said. “The guys have to get more game experience than that so they have a purpose to practice.”

Now Wilson sets up a full schedule for his junior varsity squad. Wilson believes the junior varsity program is beneficial especially for freshmen to learn the system and the style of play he expects from them.

The junior varsity programs play against other IIAC teams and a handful of junior colleges.

“This is a lot better than playing at a Division I school,” sophomore football player Jacob Johnson said. “There you would have to sit on the sidelines for a few years rather than getting game time immediately.”

According to Johnson, he enjoyed his experience with the junior varsity program not only because he was playing with his classmates, but also because he was able to mature as a player and learn the system.

Numerous athletes at Simpson began their careers at the junior varsity level before earning All-Conference honors their junior or senior year.

“I actually had a girl a few years back who played JV her first few years before she was named an All-American her senior year,” said Head Women’s Basketball Coach Brian Niemuth.

Having a junior varsity program requires many coaches to put in a number of extra hours.

“It is a little bit overwhelming but it is a pleasure to see them play,” Haffar said.

By having an assistant coach, and in many sports student coaches, the head coach usually has a lot of help when it comes to the organization of the junior varsity program.

“I like to give my assistant coach the responsibility of handling the junior varsity squad and to be in charge of the program,” Wilson said.

According to Niemuth, Haffar and Wilson, the junior varsity program usually does not have a strong following.

“Typically it is just friends and family that make it to the games,” Niemuth said. “But there is no way that I would ever want to give the junior varsity program up. It is way too important.”