Big things are growing from the new Acorn League.
The inaugural fall season of the non-fee based Manteca Unified after school elementary sports program has 804 fourth through eighth grade participants in cross country and volleyball split almost evenly between genders with 403 girls and 401 boys.
The fall programs as well as basketball for grades sixth through eighth grades in the winter and track for fourth through eighth grades in the spring are all following rules, drafted by the district’s high school athletic directors. That allows for a smooth transition into the high school level as students know what to expect.
Cross country is a new Acorn sport that involves 350 fourth through eighth graders. There are 19 coaches for 17 elementary schools, Neil Hafley and Woodward have two coaches due to teams larger than 30. French Camp, Mossdale, and New Haven didn’t have enough interest when the recruiting stage was underway.
A coaches meeting conducted by Sierra coaches Mike Rosendin and Jeff Greene along with Lathrop High coach William Lee went over running form, how to train a runner and running drill ideas. Coaches and runners from the Sierra, Lathrop and East Union high school cross country programs conducted a runners’ clinic with 125 elementary runners attending. It was designed as a way to connect elementary students with the high school program.
Three meets are planned followed by a championship race Oct. 21 at Woodward Park.
Acorn League Director Tevani Liotard conducted a volleyball clinic for all coaches to learn or be refreshed on skill progression, drill ideas, and how to plan a practice. All teams were invited to participate in a high school clinic at East Union, Lathrop, Manteca, and Sierra high schools. Each high school had between 40 and 70 participants at their respective clinics.
Lathrop High invited their feeder schools to a high school game while Manteca High conducted a Saturday tournament that 10 teams paid to attend.
Some of the boys playing in the Acorn League may eventually be part of the boys’ volleyball teams when it is added at the high school level as an interscholastic sport in the coming years.
Volleyball preseason games used a 40-minute clock with no score displayed on the scoreboard allowing the games to be an instructional portion of the season. League play consists of four games, the score is displayed and win/loss records kept.
The Acorn League has 20 girl teams and 21 coaches with Lathrop having two coaches sharing the stipend. Boys’ volleyball has 17 teams and 18 coaches with Widmer School having two coaches sharing the stipend. Lathrop, Brock Elliott, and French Camp schools did not have enough interest to form boys’ teams.
The coaching stipend is a percentage of a teacher’s base salary of $50,806. Basketball and volleyball coaches earn 4 percent of $2,032. Cross country and track coaches earn 2 percent or $1,016. Both cross country and track are able to have two coaches depending upon the team size.
The overall coaching cost is $243,866. Basketball and volleyball officiating will cost $28,200. Awards and supplies are costing $8,000 bringing the overall cost to the district to $289,066.
The Acorn League was established to serve as a developmental sports program. Students learn the fundamentals of the sport, rules, and sportsmanship among Manteca Unified elementary schools.
The Manteca Unified board voted to bring back the Acorn league as a district program in March.
The non-profit Manteca United Student Trust (MUST) stepped up in 2006 to save the program when it was going to be given the ax due to budget cutbacks. Unlike the previous and current Acorn Leagues, the MUST program was fee based.
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