B y Derek Liebig
Whitehall’s student athletes are expected to receive a leg up on their competition.
The Board of Education voted last week to enter into an agreement with the Whitehall Athletic Club that will allow students to train at the fitness center.
Students will be able to use the club’s weight-training facility and teams will be able to utilize space in the former drill shed for practices.
Superintendent Elizabeth Legault said the agreement is beneficial for both the athletic and academic performance of the district’s students.
“We can have more teams there practicing at the same time and can get them home earlier to work on academics,” Legault said.
The practice schedule for winter and spring sports can be problematic because there are often three or four teams looking to utilize the same space. During the early part of the baseball and softball seasons, when snow prevents teams from practicing outdoors, there can be up to six teams hoping to use one of the district’s two gymnasiums. Often the practices are stacked, meaning one or two teams may not be done practicing until 9 p.m. The athletic club has the capacity for multiple teams to practice at the same time
“We hope to have the opportunity for three teams to work out together. We can’t do that here,” Legault said.
The district would provide transportation to the club after school and parents would then pick up their children at the club as opposed to at the school.
A number of coaches have advocated for better training facilities. Whitehall does not have a defined weight room, putting it as a disadvantage against schools like Lake George, which was weight training and cardio equipment.
Whitehall’s training facilities are limited to an assortment of free weights in the wrestling room. Before that, athletes trained in an area near the district’s pool.
“We’re very close to turning it around in all our sports. We have some very talented kids coming up but we’re smaller than everyone,” Athletic Director Keith Redmond said.
Board member Mark Deluca questioned the wisdom of moving athletic events off school property.
“In the past we have always strived to have kids remain on campus,” he said.
He also questioned whether the district should be making entering into agreements with a for-profit company.
The original agreement, which was proposed at the beginning of last month and would terminate on June 30, would cost the district $6,250. Board members accepted that agreement only if the amount was pro-rated so it didn’t include the month of February.
Redmond said there was enough money in the athletic budget to cover the amount.
Besides an opportunity to increase performance on the field, Legault, who was a standout track and field performer in college, said the agreement was a chance to build community. She said athletic success, like academic success, contributes to a district’s and a community’s image and a healthy school—academically and athletically—could help bring people into the community.
“I think we’re building our capacity. This is an opportunity to reach out. I thought it would open us up,” she said.
“I think Whitehall has the capacity to be something, I truly believe that.”
Legault said she hopes to arrange for the agreement to include teachers, which may eventually open the door for the district to get refunds on its health plan.
Board member Frank Barber, a parent of two student athletes, said he liked the idea of students getting home earlier and high school Principal Kelly McHugh said the agreement could allow the district to make better use of its large group instructional room, which moonlights as a weight room during wrestling season.
The agreement is expected to be re-examined this summer and at that point a decision will be made whether it should continue beyond this spring.
A resolution to approve the agreement received the unanimous support of the board.