Have Saugerties boys lost interest in sports?

(Photo by Mookie Forcella )

Two years ago, when massive budget cuts threatened the entire Saugerties school district athletic program, only a huge fundraising effort was able to save the season. The community rejoiced. No one would have guessed that sports teams would soon be having trouble filling their rosters. But there’s no mistaking it: in both spring and fall of this year, coaches of boys’ sports at Saugerties High School say they’re barely able to field enough players to compete.

No one is sure why. “That’s a great question,” said district athletic director Chris Curnan, who is also the coach of the girls’ lacrosse team.

“It just seems to be the trend,” he said. “It certainly puts our boys’ teams at a disadvantage, but there just doesn’t seem to be the dedication there that there is with the girls.”

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That’s right. While the boys’ teams are playing with light benches, the rosters for the girls’ teams remain strong. In the case of fall girls’ volleyball, so many went out for the team that significant cuts were made, and while 20 girls went out for the fall girls’ tennis team, only seven will start.

Last spring, both Steve Below, boys’ baseball coach, and Bob Slate, boys’ lacrosse coach, said that a lower than usual turnout put them at a disadvantage when playing other teams.

Slate was particularly vocal, saying that it means opponents can substitute more often, keeping their players fresh.

Varsity football coach Lee Meisinger and soccer coach Mike Riley are worried about the same problem. Meisinger said that usually about 60 boys go out for the team, which he divides into varsity and junior varsity; this year there are just 40. Riley has about 25 players out that he will have to divide up into varsity and JV.

“Some of the players are going to have to play offense and defense,” Meisinger said. Again, this puts the Sawyers at a disadvantage.

When asked about the low turnout, the coaches were unable to come up with a cause. Meisinger suggested that boys who in the past played a number of sports during the year, might be opting to concentrate on only one sport this year.

Slate thought in the case of boys’ lacrosse, it might be due to the fact that Saugerties does not have a feeder program. “There are no programs for the younger kids, like there is for soccer,” Slate said.

Assistant girls’ soccer coach Mark Herb, who has been coaching in the Saugerties system since 1972, said he thinks it’s all about “peer pressure.”

“Boys want cars and cell phones, and their parents refuse to pay for them, so rather than going out for sports, many of the boys have had to go out and get after-school jobs if they want to get those things,” Herb said.

Herb may be correct. The days may be gone when boys used to play soccer in the fall and then run track in the spring to stay in shape, or play football in the fall, go out for the wrestling team in the winter and then throw the shot put or discus for the track team in the spring to stay in shape for football.

But whatever the reason, head coaches for the Sawyers have been left scrambling to keep their players fresh and remain competitive against schools that are not having the same problems fielding teams. The Sawyers have always had team spirit, but while the spirit may be more than willing, the flesh, this year, is… limited.

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