Local school sports teams are likely to look a little different in the coming years, because of reductions in student enrollment shrinking the numbers of potential team members for various sports.
Now, the wheels are in motion for the merger of Penn Yan and Dundee modified and junior varsity football teams, and officials from the Dundee and Watkins Glen Schools are in discussions about merging other sports between those districts.
Football coaching staff from Penn Yan and Dundee Schools have held informational meetings in both districts, and are planning a joint meeting for sometime in early June.
Tim McBride, varsity football coach in Penn Yan said the discussions between the schools began because coaching staff are looking for what is best for the overall program.
“Combining at this level helps the program out in the long run,” he said in Penn Yan Monday evening.
Penn Yan did not field a junior varsity team in 2018 or 2017. A team was planned for the 2016 season, but folded.
Around the same time — three years ago — the Dundee and Penn Yan Junior Football programs combined due to decreased participation.
McBride says combined teams will increase the number of players, which means individuals will need to compete for playing time, and they will be playing at levels appropriate for their age and skills.
He says having three levels of football will reduce some risks and will better fit the physical and emotional abilities of the players.
The Junior Varsity team will be coached by Steve Bouchard of Penn Yan (offense) and Andrew Prisco of Dundee (defense). Practices and games will be played in Penn Yan. Penn Yan equipment and uniforms will be used.
The modified team will be coached by Michael Strait of Dundee (offense) and Sal Sciallo of Penn Yan (defense). Practices and games will be played in Dundee, and Dundee equipment and uniforms will be used.
Players will be transported to the appropriate school for practice and games by school district buses. Parents will pick their child up from his or her home school after practices.
Dundee Athletic Director and Varsity Football Coach Sheldon Gibson said, “This is a great opportunity for both programs.” He said while there may have been some conflicts between the two communities in the past, he feels current students are friends and are connected through social media. He added, “We’re all cut from the same cloth when it comes to football.”
Gibson said he wants to get the players together over the summer for workouts and other team building activities.
He said the Dundee varsity program will convert to an 8-man team. There will be no change in the Penn Yan varsity program.
Last week, Dundee Superintendent Kelly Houck reported to the Dundee Board of Education on the discussions that have been held with Watkins Glen School officials about the potential for merging various sports. She said teams that will likely be partnered are modified soccer for both boys and girls, cross country for both boys and girls, wrestling at both the varsity and modified level, bowling, and possibly lacrosse, swimming, and tennis.
The Watkins Glen football program is currently in the third year of a five year contract with Odessa-Montour.
She said the sentiment is for establishing long term partnerships that will allow student athletes to compete at the appropriate level for their skills.
With the board’s support, discussions with Watkins Glen will continue.
Gibson, Dundee’s wrestling coach, is enthusiastic about expanding that sport, and wants to work with Watkins Glen sports boosters to bring back the Watson Tournament, which was a very popular and successful wrestling tournament.