Let Them Play

CASSADAGA – What happens on the field of play can generate quite a buzz for a school district, but it’s what’s happening off the field that has the Cassadaga Valley Central School District talking.

High School Principal Josh Gilevski teamed up with Athletic Director Mark Petersen to shed some light on the possible merging of certain sports programs.

As it stands Cassadaga Valley has two options; it can stand alone and hope for the best with its programs, or it can take a big step and merge with Bemus Point and/or Chautauqua Lake.

The focus at Thursday’s meeting was what happens if Cassadaga Valley merges and students don’t get enough play time on the field, or if they get left out completely.

Another top concern brought up was safety; if students are rushed into a sport before they are ready they could suffer risks to their health.

“Merging could be a double-edged sword,” Petersen said. “We could lose numbers, some may decide not to play whether we merge or not.”

In December, Petersen said numbers for the 2013-14 sports year were very low. Varsity football went from 19 in December to 20; varsity wrestling stands at eight, but could jump to 10; varsity soccer went from five in December to six; and varsity track has 15 boys and 13 girls enrolled.

“We would have to forfeit five games right away,” Petersen said when talking about soccer. “We are down 30-nothing before we even start.”

Petersen said if “we do nothing we are left out in the cold” and the key goals are being “safe and sustainable.”

Cassadaga Valley has until mid-February to decide whether to merge or not.

“If we merge, we have to get moving on it now,” Petersen said. “No one wants to merge, but our hands may be forced.”

Parents brought up the concern with cost. Gilevski said that issue would be brought up when they decide whether to merge or not.

“The details as far as jerseys, transportation and coaches will be decided when and if we merge,” he said. “We are not at that point yet.”

Parents were concerned about cuts. Gilevski said they shouldn’t be concerned with cuts since the merger would not cause this to happen.

“We wouldn’t cut kids if we merge,” he said. “We are giving them an opportunity to play.”

One parent said, “This is their family, their field, their home.” This stirred things with parents agreeing and pointing out their concern for their kids and the sports they all love.

One student spoke out, “I think it is all about winning, if you’re not willing to put yourself out there, not willing to merge, you are not strong enough to play. It is all about the sweat, blood and tears we put on the field.”

Another student said, “If we play at home we play harder. We won’t play our hearts out on another home team’s field.”

Parents seemed to agree that all sports but football need to merge on an individual basis depending on the need.

“If we don’t make a move, it won’t be fair for our kids,” Petersen said. “We could lose programs.”

Petersen said right now they are “looking for a dance partner,” and they don’t want one that is 30 minutes away.

Board member William Carlson said, “If the problem is cost we will find a way around it. I want to see programs stay.”

A coach said, “It comes down to competition and safety; the kids deserve to play.”

He continued, “We want to see them have an opportunity whether we merge or not. Our kids have earned the right to play the sports they love.”

“These kids are passionate about their school district, and passionate about their identity,” Petersen said. “Sports keep a lot of kids coming to school.”