Sports Mergers Really Only Affect The Kids

By all accounts, the combination of the Chautauqua Lake and Maple Grove football teams went well this year.

On the other end of the sports merger spectrum is the situation in such places as Pine Valley and Frewsburg, where district residents have been left with a sour taste in their mouths regarding the merger of wrestling and basketball teams, respectively.

Transportation has been a sticking point in Pine Valley’s wrestling merger with Cattaraugus-Little Valley. Due to a low number of wrestlers, Pine Valley cut transportation for wrestlers after the cost ran about $4,300 over budget last season. Transportation issues this season have meant the teams not being able to practice together and problems getting the Pine Valley wrestlers to competitions, which have led to a multitude of problems for wrestlers from both schools.

Frewsburg, meanwhile, pursued a basketball merger with Falconer because it appeared Frewsburg wouldn’t have enough players to field a varsity and junior varsity team. The district approved the merger in September only to find out there were so many interested Frewsburg players that the combined team would have to cut a large number of the students who wanted to play. Section 6 has already made the schedule for this year, so Frewsburg officials were left with the choice of sharing a team or not playing at all.

School districts, coaches and parents must go into these discussions carefully. Questions about coaching responsibilities, transportation and practice schedules should be answered clearly before such mergers move forward.

We add that Section 6 surely can do more to help schools in their merger needs by being more flexible. Simple communication might help. We have yet to receive a phone call back by the Section 6 executive director after three attempts. We acknowledge the difficulty with running so many sports each season, but asking schools to know the number of potential athletes in a given sport 30 to 40 days before practice even starts is difficult, especially for smaller schools. The section needs to realize school enrollments aren’t likely to skyrocket anytime soon in Chautauqua County, which means merged sports teams aren’t going away.

Mixed experiences such as those at Pine Valley and Frewsburg shouldn’t mean an end to shared sports teams. It is proof that a better process before the merger means a more successful endeavor for all involved.

After all, the ones truly affected are the kids.