B y Derek Liebig

Some former Granville sports coaches are skeptical that a move to the Adirondack League will cure what ails the district’s sports programs.

Although none of the coaches rejected the idea, they expressed doubts that a league change would make Granville’s teams more competitive.

“Any time you look at any concern that is financial in nature, it’s worth looking at, but from a competitive standpoint, I don’t think changing leagues is the answer,” said Marc Lambert, an English teacher and former baseball and softball coach in the district.

Lambert won four Wasaren League titles—three with the baseball team and one with the softball team.

He said the change could help teams in the regular season, but hurt them in postseason play.

“In those sports like baseball, where you have to qualify (for postseason play), it will be easier, but I don’t think teams will be prepared for the level of postseason play.”

Lynn Enny, who along with Linda Bergen led Granville’s highly competitive field hockey program for two decades, expressed a similar sentiment.

“I’m torn,” she said. “If the desire is to play a local schedule and they aren’t worried about the postseason, then it might be a good idea. But in terms of the postseason, it’s not going to help.”

With a BEDS enrollment number of just over 300 students, Granville competes at the Class B level. It is one of four Wasaren League schools, along with Mechanicville, Tamarac and Hoosick Falls, to compete at that level. The four remaining teams in the league—Stillwater, Hoosic Valley, Greenwich and Cambridge—compete at Class C.

By contrast, Corinth is the only Adirondack League school that competes in Class B. Three other schools compete at Class C and the remaining nine schools compete at Class D.

If Granville were to join the Adirondack League (the earliest it could possibly do so is the 2016-17 school year) it would play a regular season schedule consisting almost entirely of Class C and D schools and would then play Class B schools in the postseason.

According to a number of former coaches, that’s the opposite of what the teams should do.

“I feel that it would be a major step down in competition and would not help prepare Granville’s teams to compete in the Sectional playoffs,” said Matt Usher, who used to coach varsity basketball at Granville and now coaches at Saratoga. “The Wasaren is a very strong league across the board from sport to sport. I feel that it is a very great league to compete in and helps prepare teams for Section playoff success. Granville fits in very well as far as size, being a Class B playing against other B’s and C’s.”

Enny said that some of the most successful Class D schools seek competition against larger schools.
For instance, the Fort Edward girls’ basketball team earlier this season played Cohoes, a team that at the time was ranked among the top Class B schools in the state.

“I know when I coached softball, we tried to play good teams to be competitive,” said Dyke Bergen, a former softball coach in the district.

All the coaches agreed that Granville has and can still compete in the Wasaren League.

“The biggest problem is the turnover in coaching,” Enny said. “There is no consistency.”

Lambert said that in high school sports, the teams that are successful year after year have consistent coaching.

“It not a coincidence that the programs that are perennially successful have consistent coaching and a consistent philosophy,” he said.

Lambert said Granville needs to align its programs vertically so that athletes at the lowest level are using the same terminology and learning the same philosophy that varsity athletes are.

He also said Granville needs to identify and monitor participation levels from elementary school through high school and do things to generate excitement.

While he was baseball coach, the team often played in a tournament in Cooperstown.

“You need to generate excitement and foster pride in the program,” Lambert said.

Usher said Granville has the athletes to compete, but they need more support if they are going to succeed.

“I feel that Granville will have success with its athletic programs when the administration and Board of Education allow their coaches to do their jobs,” Usher said. “Building consistency across all sports and being able to attract and retain the coaches that are doing a decent job will be very important.”

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