It's a conversation that many coaches across York County have likely had with a student-athlete sometime in the last several months.
With girls' soccer switching from the spring to the fall this school year, some soccer players who previously played a fall sport had to decide which sport to play.
"At this age that would be a very difficult decision to make," Dallastown girls' soccer coach Barry Barbush said Monday morning, which was the opening day of fall sports practice "The only conversation I had with an athlete, whatever they decided to do, I support 100 percent."
The switch has been a few years in the making. Back in October 2009, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to make girls' soccer a fall-only sport in the 2012-2013 school year. Previously, the PIAA crowned girls' soccer state champions in both the fall and the spring. Most schools in western Pennsylvania have been playing girls' soccer in the fall for several years, while many eastern schools competed in the spring.
Chatting with some soccer players and coaches on the first day of fall practice Monday, the switch is already having an impact on the sport in terms of numbers.
"I have 35 girls out this year and normally I have about low- to mid-40s," Barbush said.
The longtime Wildcats' coach said two players left for swimming, one for tennis and another for field hockey. A couple others left either because of a move out of the school district or to focus on academics. Two more can't play because of injury.
A similar loss is being felt in the girls' soccer program at West York, where head coach Sarah Waybright said she is experiencing a drop-off.
"Normally we have 31 to 33 (players). This year we're looking at 25 to 27," Waybright said.
About five of those left for field hockey and one other left for volleyball, she said.
"I would say three of the players (who left) are seniors who we have had over the last several years who either started or were first off the bench," Waybright said. "So, we'll miss some of those girls."
Tough decision: For the student-athletes involved in deciding between playing soccer or a competing fall sport, it probably was as tough as the one West York senior goalkeeper Stevie Gross made. Gross, who chose to play soccer this fall, previously played volleyball for the school and club field hockey in the fall.
"Most of the volleyball girls I'm close with. So, it's hard to say goodbye to them," Gross said. "It's hard to say 'I'm not going to play volleyball with you my senior year.' Every senior looks forward to Senior Night with the people they've been playing with for four years."
Some athletes might even be pulling double-duty, just as one of Barbush's players is doing.
"I have one girl who's going to try and run junior-high cross country as well as trying to play soccer," Barbush said. "I want to do what's best for the student-athlete. She's torn between what she wants to do. "
Increase: While soccer programs at Dallastown and West York have felt a drop-off in numbers, Dover has actually had an increase.
"I think our numbers today are 34 girls came out for JV (junior varsity) and varsity. Last year we were at 26," Eagles' coach Bret Altimore said. "But I think that's because we had 10 or 11 girls in the freshman class, which made up the difference, and we didn't lose a lot of seniors."
Despite the pickup in numbers this year, Altimore still thinks Dover might feel a drop-off in the coming seasons.
"I think everyone is vying for the athletes and what not. It's all cyclical. So maybe in the future we will," Altimore said.
As all coaches noted, though, the important thing to remember is that students are still playing a sport in the fall, no matter what it may be.
"We could go into the psychological aspect about (sports) teaching kids to get along with each other and the fact that it's the biggest deterrent to delinquent behavior," Altimore said. "But as long as they are playing a sport, that's what it's all about."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.