The East Williston school district should create a systematic progression for student athletes from middle school through high school varsity sports as it looks to grow its athletics program, parents and community members said last Thursday.
The East Williston school board and the district’s Athletic Strategic Planning Committee hosted a forum to get public feedback on the committee’s areas of focus for the program.
The event was the committee’s first outreach to the public regarding the athletics plan, district Superintendent Elaine Kanas said.
A funnel of progression for younger athletes into higher-level programs is currently lacking, said James Bloomgarden, principal of North Side School.
Baseball is the only sport in East Williston with a youth program.
“There’s nothing like watching a second-grader watching a varsity player, thinking ‘I can do that,’’’ Bloomgarden said.
Sports facilities are also “very limited,” he said. Several people at the meeting said coaches have to rent space for their teams.
The committee will use the feedback from the meeting to create a public survey designed to identify goals and actions for the athletics program over the next five years, Kanas said in a newsletter this month.
During the public forum, noncommittee members facilitated roundtable discussions and typed the responses of the individuals at each table.
Anthony Sparacia, a member of the East Williston Little League Board, said varsity coaches should be involved with the entry-level players all the way through.
Consistency and continuity will not only help the students progress but will improve school spirit, he said.
Having his varsity teams involved with younger players and youth programs has been successful and would be an effective way of building a continuous program, Sparacia said.
Parents also stressed the importance of building incentive programs for coaching to encourage their players to support other teams.
“A lot of it falls on the shoulders of the coach, and it’s hard to do that and focus on athletes at the same time,” Chuck Santarelli, a coach in the community, said.
Other topics discussed at the forum included the district’s athletic mission statement; school spirit; recruiting coaches and staff development; the role of outside professionals in school athletics programs; and the importance of communication between students, parents and coaches.
Santarelli complimented the mission statement, saying it is important to realize that a lot of what athletes do and learn on a team affects their education, motivation and dedication.
The Athletic Strategic Planning Committee has been meeting regularly as the district looks to revamp and grow its athletics programs.
Residents last year voted to let the district save $4.9 million to renovate athletic fields in the future.
Full responses from the public forum are expected to be displayed on the East Williston school district’s website, ewsdonline.org, under the “Athletic Strategic Planning” tab.