NORTH SHORE ATHLETICS PROGRAM RECEIVES HIGH MARKS FROM OUTSIDE EVALUATORS
February 2, 2016 -- In a report presented to the North Shore Board of Education at its meeting last Thursday evening, two outside evaluators gave the district high marks for its Middle and High School Athletics program. The review, conducted by two former Athletics Directors, Nancy Kalafus who retired from the Garden City School District this past June, and Ed Cinelli who served as Athletics Director in the Patchogue Medford System before taking on his current position as the Executive Director of the Section XI Athletics Association, Suffolk County’s governing body for high school athletics, praised several aspects of the District’s approach to athletics, including the Athletic Department’s mission statement, the Middle School’s modified athletics program, the district’s facilities and equipment, and the commitment to student health and safety. The two evaluator’s strongest recommendation was for the Athletics program to develop more effective channels of communication.
The findings were based on interviews and surveys that were conducted since last spring and that included 253 responses from parents and 400 responses from student athletes, as well as face to face meetings with dozens of senior athletes, parents, coaches and four of the school board trustees.
Mr. Cinelli and Ms. Kalafus strongly encouraged the District to maintain its modified athletics program at the Middle School, which for outdoor sports, unlike the more competitive high school level teams for which there are try-outs, allows all interested students to participate regardless of ability level or experience. As a result, several teams may be created for a single sport. The purpose of Middle School sports and allowing every student the opportunity to participate they said, “is to give young athletes the opportunity to explore the diversity of their interests - to see what they’re good at and what they like or don’t like.”
“You have a lot of teams, and that’s great,” Ms. Kalafus said. However, one problem that has arisen, she continued, is that other schools have had to eliminate their modified programs to stay within the tax cap, and as a result field only one team per sport. Because those programs must cut players, talent is more concentrated and as a result those teams tend to be significantly stronger than those of modified programs. She said that Athletic Directors and the Section 8 Athletics Association, the Nassau County High School Athletics governing body, have been working to develop schedules that match up teams with similar compositions.
During the discussion that followed, Trustee Joanna Commander stated that some have suggested that within the modified program, the strongest players be concentrated on a single team rather than talent spread evenly among multiple teams, and asked what the two evaluators’ thoughts were on that. Ms. Kalafus replied that in some sports it was potentially dangerous for there to be such a wide disparity in skill level, and for those sports it would perhaps be advisable to group students accordingly, and to allow the composition of each team to determine the strength of the respective teams’ schedules.
As for their recommendations, the two evaluators emphasized the importance of developing more effective channels of communication.
“There’s a perception in the community that there’s a lack of communication - a disconnect between the athletic department and coaches and the parents.”
He suggested that the high school create an Athletics Advisory Council made up of coaches, administrators and parents, which he said could be an “effective conduit of communication,” as well as a “Captains’ Council” made up of the player-captains of the varsity teams. That he said would help to promote unity. Additionally he suggested restoring a .5 secretarial position in the Athletic Director’s office that had been cut a few years ago, and that that individual be charged with communicating sports schedules and game recaps to the local press.
During the discussion that followed, Trustee Marianne Russo stated that she would would like to see a public relations position created that would help market student athletes who wish to play at the next level or to just make students more marketable to college admissions officers. “I don’t think we get enough credit,” she said. “We need to make colleges and universities aware of the great things our students do.”
As Mr. Cinelli concluded his remarks, he praised the district for its emphasis on promoting high academic standards within its athletics program, noting that senior long distance runner Diana Vizza had just been named the News 12 Scholar Athlete for January, an honor bestowed on only 30 high school athletes from Long Island each year, and that all 22 fall high school sports teams were designated by New York State as scholar-athlete teams.
Parents, he said, indicated in their surveys that they believed their children derived many benefits from participating in athletics, and that the qualities like perseverance and better time management enabled them to be better students.
“This is why you have athletics,” Mr. Cinelli said. “Winning is great, but how athletics support student growth is the most important thing.”
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