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Despite declining participation, pride in sports programs still strong

January 28, 2016
By Katrina Fuller ( , Westfield Republican

In the recent past, the future of athletics in education has become cloudy. However, statistics point out sports are still an integral part of students' lives.

Statistics from the National Federation of State High School Associations show a national increase in athletic participation for both boys and girls from the 2013-14 school year to the 2014-15 school year of 11,389.

Overall, in 2014-15, more than 7.8 million students participated in athletics nationwide.

Mike Ginestre, principal of Sherman Central School District, said sports is a main focus in Sherman for all involved.

"We take great pride in our athletic program. We know our community really takes pride in athletics and the support is unbelievable," Ginestre said. "We try to offer our students as many opportunities to get involved."

In the past few years, declining numbers caused Sherman to merge their football team with Panama Central School District and Clymer Central School District.

In June, student council members from each district announced they had chosen a mascot for the combined team, naming themselves the "Wolf Pack." The mascot design depicts three wolves with a wolf colored to correspond to each school.

The logo will be used for each shared sports team should there be more to come aside from the football team. The design was voted on by staff and students from each school, as well as community members at large.

Ginestre said declining numbers for football are not uncommon across the county which has caused mergers such as these.

"But, our cross country and basketball participation is outstanding," Ginestre said, adding different sports draw different students to participate. "We encourage our kids to participate. We want our students to have different experiences than just in the classroom."

As always, he said students are always encouraged to explore and try new activities to become more well-rounded individuals.

"It's just a sense of pride (to us)," Ginestre said.

Sherman Central School District offers a sports program which includes football, golf, track, volleyball, basketball, bowling, baseball, cross country and softball. Within these sports, there are 22 teams available for student participation.

Tim Mains, Jamestown Public Schools District superintendent, said athletics are still going strong at Jamestown High School.

"We look at engagements and involvement in athletics as an opportunity to learn and grow in different ways," Mains said, adding many students participate in sports at the high school level. "This will continue to be a valuable opportunity we want to provide for in Jamestown. We view it not only as an opportunity for students to learn a skill, but also to learn things about themselves."

Jamestown offers a variety of sports including baseball, football, wrestling, soccer, swimming, tennis, golf, indoor track, cross country, track and field, bowling, softball and girls volleyball.

The high school also offers modified sports in seventh and eighth grade which include basketball, soccer, track, volleyball, softball and wrestling.

According to a presentation previously given by Ben Drake, district director of athletics, 951 students participated in athletic programs in 2014-15 and over 42 percent of students in seventh through 12th grades participated in sports of some kind.

Aside from the physical activity portion of athletic involvement, Mains said there are a variety of other benefits to athletics.

"You learn sportsmanship and teamwork. These are things we don't necessarily teach in a class, but they are things you can learn in sports," he said. "Working with other creates an impact. Students can actually see the benefit of hard work and the benefit of collaboration."

Mains said while not everyone wins first place every time, there is a value in showing up to participate.

"There are kids on the track team who may not win a meet, but they beat their last record," he said. "They continue to see themselves improve and that is also an important life lesson. Some students say athletic participation is one of the most meaningful experiences in high school."

Mains said the district intends to garner information from the students on what groups, sports and more they are interested in to better tailor the programming to the student body.

"Are there things we should be doing that we're not? Or, are there things we are doing that we shouldn't?" he asked. "Next school year, we will survey students on what types of clubs (and sports) they would like us to have."



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