Winter Haven Christian Adding Athletics
Tue. August 28, 2012 at 2:20 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
BY LISA COFFEY
WINTER HAVEN | The sound of cheerleaders chanting, whistles blowing and coaches shouting instructions from the sidelines will soon be an everyday occurrence at Winter Haven Christian School.
The small private school, with an interdenominational offering and a growing student body, is adding athletics this year to its extracurricular activities.
"We had decided a couple years ago to begin sports with the ninth grade this year," said part-time, volunteer athletic director Jeff Carney. "I have a daughter in ninth this year. We felt there must be something more than academia."
Carney and Winter Haven Christian School development director Jeanette Venable did two surveys in the 2010-2011 school year to gauge the interest in adding athletics.
The surveys were favorable for doing just that.
"We found coaches for everything," Carney said. "Then it really began to roll."
Venable, who has been at the school for a year, is excited.
"The children and parents feel like sports is so important," Venable said. "I really feel like the addition of the athletic program was one of the things that helped us grow. It's going to be spectacular."
Winter Haven Christian is located on Buckeye Loop Road in Winter Haven on a 15-acre campus with one large, H-shaped building.
It opened in 1965 at First Baptist Church of Winter Haven.
The student body grew last year from 230 to 299 students. It added a freshman class of eight students this year. Next year it will add a sophomore class, with plans to add one grade each year with the first graduating class in 2016.
In addition, the school is starting a fundraising campaign to add seven additional classrooms to the main building in the near future.
When Carney began the process of adding athletics, he contacted the Florida High School Athletic Association.
To be accepted into the FHSAA, the school must be accredited, which the school is going through now with the Association of Christian Schools. The Warriors are expected to be accredited in 2014. They will apply to the FHSAA in 2013 to become a member. The process is expected to take a year.
Until then, the FHSAA allows its schools to compete against non-FHSAA schools. The Warriors will not be eligible for any FHSAA district or state titles.
Carney also is looking to dual-enroll the Warriors in the Florida Christian Conference.
This year, the Warriors will participate in cheerleading, boys' soccer, girls' volleyball, bowling, cross country, archery, boys' and girls' basketball, boys' flag football, girls' soccer, tennis and track.
The Warriors will play their soccer and flag football games on their home field at the school. Plus, the school has drawn a cross-country course on its campus.
Archery also will be contested behind the school near the soccer field. The competitive team will come out of the in-school program as part of a two-week curriculum children learn at the school from second grade on up.
Winter Haven Christian athletes will play their home volleyball matches and basketball games at St. John's United Methodist Church in Winter Haven for the time being.
According to Venable, the school's next big fundraising project after the new classrooms is a gymnasium.
Carney is looking into using Denison Stadium for track meets and possibly the Winter Haven city courts for tennis.
Because the school has just eight freshmen, many of the school's matches will include middle school athletes from sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Bowling matches and cross country will be contested against true high school opponents.
Matches in other sports will be against high school junior varsity teams.
Students participating in athletics paid an athletics fee to cover the cost of uniforms and officials.
All Winter Haven Christian coaches and assistants are volunteers.
While the school's nickname was Warriors, its logo and colors of royal blue and white were recently created with the addition of athletics.
The Warriors' first contest is today with a bowling match against Circle Christian of Orlando at Cypress Lanes at 4 p.m.
The school kicks off its athletic endeavor with a dedication of its soccer field at 4 p.m. on Sept. 6, before a boys contest against Grace Lutheran of Winter Haven.