Soccer is the second most popular sport among Americans ages 12-24, according to a recent survey. Nowhere is its popularity more evident than at independent schools. At many prominent boarding schools, a dedication to playing soccer is as old and as important as any school tradition.

In 1862, Gerrit Smith "Gat" Miller, a graduate of the Latin School of Epes Sargent Dixwell, a private college preparatory school in Boston, established the Oneida Football Club, one of the first men's soccer clubs in the United States. Later, Miller organized the first organized football team in the United States, consisting of a group of Boston secondary school students such as Boston Latin School and the English High School of Boston.

Soccer continues a staple on prep schools fields in the fall while having gone national. The last school in our list, The Webb Schools let's us take a look at some traits of soccer on the West Coast.

The following five independent boarding schools boast boys' soccer programs, which celebrate a commitment to personal discipline, good sportsmanship, and teamwork--qualities that lead to success on the field, in the classroom, and in life.

Surveying Soccer Boarding Schools

Brooks School is a private, co-educational, preparatory, secondary school in North Andover, Massachusetts on the shores of Lake Cochichewick with a passion and dedicated history of boys' soccer. In 1948, Brooks was one of eight founding members of the Gummere Cup League, one of the oldest high school soccer trophies in the nation.

As a member of the Independent School League, one of the most competitive high school leagues in the East, Brooks School offers three different soccer teams, a first, second and third team, which are focused on player, team and personal development.

Brooks has proved to be a soccer powerhouse, continually earning numerous championships, and developing a host of players who have played soccer at Division I and III college programs, at the professional level and for the U.S. National team.

Brooks also features state of the art soccer facilities including three back-to-back penalty areas, 40 X 60 yards of grids, as well as access to the necessary training equipment necessary for a rigorous daily program. The First Team plays on a 120 X 75 yard field with a tower for video, electronic scoreboard and covered team benches.

Brooks School Soccer
Brook School, Andover, MA

At The Williston Northampton School, a private co-educational preparatory school for boarding and day students in Easthampton, Massachusetts, boys' soccer has been a varsity sport since 1921. The team is one of ten charter members of the Western New England Prep School Soccer Association, formed in 1954. As a Class B school,  Williston successfully competes against many of the Western New England Preparatory School Association (WNEPSA) traditional soccer powers including many Class A schools. The team participated in the Class B New England Tournament in both 2008 and 2009. In 1977 and 1978, Williston won the Stewart Cup and was a Class B finalist in 2000.

At Williston, athletes have access to excellent facilities, including two natural grass fields, two field turf facilities, Galbraith Field and Sawyer Field, a lit facility giving the team the opportunity to play night games. Williston prides itself on preparing players for the college level, with many playing competitively at Brown, Yale, UMass, Union, St. Lawrence, among others.

The Williston boys team made it to the semi-final round of the Class B tournament in 2011. Five 2011 team members were named NEPSAC all stars with four players concurrently receiving Western New England all-league honors.

The Fessenden School, located only a few miles west of Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest all boys, junior boarding school in the country. Fessenden's athletic program focuses on developing teamwork, skill and sportsmanship, while competing against approximately sixty different schools in New England.

Fessenden offers six different soccer teams, which provide either a highly competitive or intermediate focus. The Varsity soccer team is a highly competitive program with an extensive fifteen game schedule including the New England Jr. Prep Championships, while the Varsity B and JV soccer teams are competitive programs designed for 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th graders focused on skill development and game experience.

Fessenden School graduates go on to study at prominent independent secondary schools including Brooks School, Williston Northampton, Middlesex School and Philips Exeter Academy, among others, where many have played competitive soccer. Fessenden alum Sheanon Williams, class of 2003, was a member of the U20 U.S. national soccer team and is a current member of the major league soccer team, Philadelphia Union.

Fessenden School Soccer
The Fessenden School, Newton, MA

Baylor School, a private, coeducational prep school near Chattanooga, Tennessee is known for being an athletic powerhouse.

In 2005, Baylor was named the leading high school sports program in Tennessee and in the top 25 nationwide by Sports Illustrated. Baylor fields boys soccer teams at the varsity, junior varsity, and lower school levels. The varsity team competes in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA), Division II East region and the lower school team competes in the TVAC.

Athletes practice and place in the Baylor soccer complex, which opened in the fall of 2005 and features a lighted stadium with an Olympic size field and two adjacent fields.
Baylor won state soccer championships in 1997, 2000, and 2007. In 2012 the Tennessee Soccer Coaches Association named four Baylor soccer players to its 2012 Division II AA All-State team.

Baylor School Soccer
Baylor School, Chattanooga, TN

Soccer on the West Coast

Special thanks, and credit, to The Webb Schools, athletic director, Steve Wishek for sharing his West Coast soccer expertise.

In most Western States soccer is a fall sport, Southern California and a few other locales, are able to take advantage of the great weather and soccer is played during the winter season.

Most schools have varsity and JV programs. Smaller schools may field coed and/or varsity only teams. Students looking for a west coats boarding schools can find a school to fit any competitive level of soccer. As with every private school application, it's all about fit.  How do the school's academics and athletics fit the student's talents and abilities?

Western boarding s chools compete athletically under the same governing body as public and private day schools, so teams have opportunities to win sectional and state championships.

One particularly unique aspect of Southern California high school sports (including soccer) is that playoff groupings are based not on enrollment, but the strength of the league in which a team competes (similar to European soccer's system of promotion and relegation). This allows schools with small enrollments but strong soccer programs to compete and succeed against much larger schools- measuring themselves against top competition throughout the state. Schools whose programs are not highly competitive are still able to provide great experiences due to the fact that they competing against teams of similar ability.

The Webb Schools is the collective name for two private schools located in Claremont, California. Competing in the Prep League as part of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), The Webb School of California (WSC) for boys offers varsity and junior varsity soccer teams for winter competition. In 2011, WSC won the Prep League championship and competed in the CIF playoffs.

Athletes play on the School's Chandler Field and have access to a state-of-the-art McCarthy Fitness Center featuring all an athlete needs to physically prepare for success.

Webb has players of all levels ranging from AYSO/Recreational League players to several athletes who are part of the US Soccer Development Program. Webb has a policy of generally accommodating the club interests of elite level athletes. Many Webb Schools graduates go on to play at the collegiate level, including Lake Forest College, UC Berkeley, Claremont Mckenna and Occidental.

The Webb Schools
The Webb Schools, Claremont, CA

If you are interested in playing soccer for any other boarding school, a student athlete should not hesitate to contact that school's admission office. If a prospective student has questions about any teams or policies at a school, they should not hesitate to contact the admission office or athletic director of that school who will be more then happy to answer their questions.

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