People have told me for years that sports are cyclical. Teams in high school have their ups and downs over the years. Some sports in said town may seem at rock bottom, but I have been told to wait awhile, they will be back.
To an extent, I have found this to be true. However, I don’t believe it is always true. When does Bellows Falls soccer or Fall Mountain football rise to the top? Oh yes, I do know that Fall Mountain football went undefeated once. They went to the title game another year, but lost 42-0 to Plymouth. They have had one outstanding team in 50 years. Four real good teams overall. I don’t call that cyclical. I call that a couple good bunches of kids in a soccer community.
Springfield won a football championship in 2008 and also appeared in three other title games in the past 30 years. Maybe their situation is cyclical, but right now, despite having a number of strong youth programs through the rec department and community ventures, male sports in Springfield have not had winning ways for a while now. Once, soccer could be counted on to break that cycle, but recently, even Cosmo soccer has lost that winning feeling. They won the state title in 2009, were runners-up in 2005 and also had only one losing season in nine years, before stumbling to 7-29-7 over the past few seasons.
Usually one points to programs in a town running those cycles. Some towns are football, soccer, cross country, basketball or baseball towns, but rarely does each sport of a certain gender go south all at once.
We put in a call to Paul Kendall, successful boys soccer coach in Springfield for a number of years. We asked him about cycles. He was at the helm of numerous strong Cosmo soccer teams, which went 9-4-1, 11-1-2, 8-3-2, 9-3-2, 11-2-1 12-2-0 and 9-3-2 during his tenure (we looked that up, he didn’t tell us). But he was also around at the end for a couple of break-even campaigns followed by a 3-8-3 team in his final season. The answer to the question of success, he said, is not simple.
“In our case, we weren’t as talented those years, but we were moved up to play a tougher schedule. We had such success, we were put in a tougher division, but most of those kids who had those successes were gone. We lost our confidence quickly,” the long time mentor Kendall said.
Nothing seems as simple today as it used to be. For years, schedules stayed the same. Now they change every two years at the longest. This can help suffering schools to an extent, but it is doesn’t give a true picture of who or what a school or team is. One group of kids can pay for their predecessors’ success. Now there is less talent, but the schedule is made of iron.
“I think they lose confidence quickly when they have trouble competing,” Kendall told us, going on to say, “I don’t know about cycles, but I do know confidence definitely plays a part in it. Numbers also can have an effect. It is tough to build confidence when you don’t win.”
I have been around for a long time, but I have never seen one town fall short in one gender of sports across the board, as long as Springfield has in recent years. How much now does the lack of confidence play into that? That is tough to tell, but let’s hope Springfield football and soccer win some games soon and maybe we will be able to find out.