This and That is all around this week. It is even dominating the weather. We have had a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Maybe, possibly in higher elevations they have even had a little bit of snow, but I haven’t seen any of that … thank goodness.
Springfield and Bellows Falls still is a great rivalry for a great many people. Lately, the meetings have been much more lively in the girls competition than the boys, but the teams are rivals regardless of the sport and the score. The boys have the upper hand, for the most part with baseball and track continuing that trend this spring. There is a split in the girls sports this spring, with Springfield on top in softball and BF in track. During the winter, the BF girls won in basketball and back in the fall, it was the Cosmos in soccer and BF in Field Hockey.
In case you missed it in the fall, the Springfield-BF Field Hockey connection may be among the best five stories in the history of the rivalry between the two long time adversaries. BF has been dominant, not just with the Cosmos, but with everyone in recent years in the sport and when Springfield managed to challenge the Falls in a 1-0 defeat, both teams took notice. BF immediately respected their foe and the battle they forged that day and the Cosmos drew strength from their battle and developed a belief they were pretty darned good. Both teams went on to win state championships on the same day at the same field in Burlington a little over a month later. This brought the programs closer together rather than just pit them as rivals. RAH RAH!
Fall Mountain will move into another era of football this fall with a new head coach. Interviews are being held later this week and an announcement should hit the streets before the calendar turns it page. Everyone has to wait out the process. Yes, there is a committee and there is likely to be a recommendation before this weekend, but the choice is not brought to the school board until it meets again. In most schools, school boards usually go with whoever is brought forward, but sometimes…stay tuned.
Veteran coach John Callahan spent two years at the Wildcat helm and the program kind of jogged in place in his tenure. That is not an evaluation, that is the way it was. His biggest contribution was that he kept the program alive and that was no small task. I, for one, thought it would not survive, but it has. Fall Mountain football needs a shot in the arm, what many of us have received both physically and figuratively over the years, to drive us on. For the Wildcats to ever make some noise, the leadership from the sidelines, or in uniform, has to make the athletes understand a big price has to be paid in and out of season, to put the team in the best place to succeed. Generally, such an approach has not been present in Fall Mountain football.
In a paragraph above, it was mentioned that the Springfield boys teams were not equal to those in BF, well the truth is, they lag behind most teams in most sports. Rick Saypack coaches both football and baseball and I asked him how difficult it was coaching season after season, when the results don’t come your way. He did admit that this is incredibly challenging and he gave his wife credit, in helping to set some things in order for him.
“She knows that I am such a competitive guy,” Saypack told me, going on to say, “she told me to just satisfy myself, that my job is just to teach them to play baseball.”
Obviously that meant keeping the winning and losing out of the equation. Saypack was excited that his team won back-to-back games versus Twin Valley and Green Mountain, but it was difficult to immediately be brought back to earth having to face a tough Brattleboro team the next time out.
“We had a nice comeback and win against Green Mountain,but it didn’t take us long to lose our focus against Brattleboro. They knew we weren’t competitive.” Saypack was particularly excited about one recent practice when he said “I went back to the days when you would play games in the back yard on a weekend and did 1968 type of stuff and the kids were excited and laughing and having fun competing. I was even excited.”
Unfortunately that is not the way a team can practice every day and grow at the same time, thus the reality returns. Athletic Directors and Vermont Secondary School administrators need to take notice deep into what words Saypack used. His players “were excited and laughing and having fun competing.” In 2017, it is more important than ever that athletes are put in competitive situations because there are plenty of choices outside of athletics and many will leave if they are not having fun. Being beaten by more than a little regularly is no fun. Springfield is not the only local school where this has happened.
SAT’s have expanded this year to add a date in August for assorted reasons, including the convenience of student athletes. The important test for those going on to further education have added August 26 to the Saturday dates, which have been available since time began. For the overwhelming majority of athletes and coaches, this should be good news. Yes, it does stretch your school year in some ways, but it separates the SAT’s, as much as possible, from your academic and school year athletic calendar. The one sport that is hit hard though by this, is football in Vermont, who has been recently reduced from two to one Saturday scrimmage dates, and August 26 is when several football jamborees take place. Overall, this is a big step forward for students and student-athletes, but I certainly understand why many football coaches are cringing.
Had a phone call the other day from a caller on a radio show, saying they felt sorry for Athletic Directors at high schools for this spring and all the postponements they had to deal with and how they were going to get in all the make-ups. The truth is, this spring is about the same as most every other spring and they have to spin this type of magic every April and May. This is the time of year their job is the toughest.
Back to the Bellows Falls-Springfield theme, there are many photos of Terrier and Cosmos athletes spread around today’s sports page. They are all taken by Doug MacPhee who spends much of his free time taking photos of area athletes. If you see Doug working a game, thank him for his contribution. He makes the Vermont Journal/The Shopper sports page so much better.