Jun 07, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
An unofficial straw poll of the Skaneateles Board of Education at its May 15 meeting showed a unanimous agreement to combine the Skaneateles boys’ varsity hockey team with players from the Marcellus School District starting in the 2012-13 school year. The combination, at least at first, would need to be renewed on a year-to-year basis to ensure the effectiveness of the merger.
The idea has been under discussion by district administrators and the school board for a number of weeks, with early opposition turning to support after Skaneateles Varsity Hockey Coach Mitch Major assured the school board at its June 5 meeting that team membership opportunities, playing time and program cost for Skaneateles players would not be negatively affected by the combination.
Final program cost numbers still must be tabulated by district Athletic Director Stacey Tice and presented to the BOE at its June 19 meeting, at which time the board will likely give official approval.
“As a traditionalist, I never thought this day would come,” Major told the school board. He added, however, that it was a “natural fit” and “In my opinion, I think this is the time [for the combination]. I really do.”
The notion of a combined boys’ varsity hockey team for Skaneateles and Marcellus came about because the Corcoran High School combined hockey team — on which Marcellus players currently play — has determined to exclude Marcellus players next year. Tice, at the May 15 BOE meeting, said she and Major felt the time was right to invite Marcellus players to Skaneateles even though the Skaneateles program was not in need of a combination in order to have enough players to form a team. To allow them in Skaneateles would be to be a “good neighbor,” Tice told the board.
Most of the board members were uncomfortable with the idea, however, concerned that Skaneateles players ultimately could be excluded, cut or benched from a team season in favor of Marcellus players. After much discussion during that meeting, a straw poll of board members showed a majority opposed to the proposal. They asked Tice and Major to further discuss and refine the idea.
At the June 5 BOE meeting, Major presented those refined ideas to the board. He said declining student enrollment numbers in schools across the region has led many schools to create combined sports teams, and although Skaneateles hockey is not to that point yet, it may come in the future.
Another important point to consider, Major said, was that youth hockey players are the foundation for later varsity teams. Currently, the Skaneateles youth hockey program has a number of kids from Marcellus. But if those Marcellus players and parents see no future in the sport because the players have no high school team on which to play, they will likely stop playing, which, in effect, reduces the number of players trying out in high school.
“You are only as good as your feeder program,” Major said. “We’re already losing kids to different programs. I’m concerned about losing our competitive edge because of numbers dropping.”
School board members again raised the concern that a combination team could deprive Skaneateles athletes of a spot on the team or actual playing time in favor of Marcellus players. Major assured the board that would not happen, saying that currently there are only a handful of Marcellus players ready for the varsity level and, as such, adding them to the team would not affect the outcome of the season.
Major said he anticipated about 30 students trying out for the team this year, and about four or five from Marcellus. “I will never cut one of those 30 in place of a Marcellus kid,” he assured the board.
Also, he said, he keeps or cuts players from his team based on overall ability and readiness to play what is a rough sport. “If you put a kid on the ice who is not ready, he will get hurt,” Major said.
After a discussion lasting about 30 minutes, BOE member Thomas J. Lambdin, who led the opposition to the combination team idea in May, said he had been convinced to support it. However, Lambdin added, he did want to have a yearly renewal of the program to ensure its equity and viability. The rest of the board agreed, especially with the annual renewal policy.
After the board took its straw poll, which favored the new combination team, BOE President Evan Dreyfuss said they would ask Tice to put together the final program cost numbers and present them to the board at its June 19 meeting. At that time, the board would probably approve the merger, he said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.