Amsterdam sports boosters asked to pitch in

Modified sports coaches and athletes are in limbo after Wednesday’s Greater Amsterdam School Distric

Modified sports coaches and athletes are in limbo after Wednesday’s Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education meeting.

Board members unanimously passed a resolution reinstating modified sports — but only if the community raises enough funds to pay for the junior high school program.

Now the supporters of modified sports have to raise about $53,000. About $21,000 has to be raised by Aug. 21 so fall modified teams can begin Sept. 1.

About 100 coaches, parents and athletes attended the board meeting Wednesday to plead with the board to change its decision to eliminate the program as a way of reducing the proposed budget by $200,000. The community twice rejected the district’s proposed $55.4 million budget, forcing the Board of Education to adopt a contingency budget.

Two custodian positions and a teacher aide position were eliminated along with the sports program.

Supporters say sports give students a purpose, teach values such as discipline, respect, pride and teamwork, improve grades and give parents and teachers some leverage.

“When I played modified sports, I was always afraid that my father would take me off the team for poor grades or bad behavior,” modified girls’ basketball coach Eric Duemler said.

“I can’t think of a more effective setting to teach students how to deal with difficult situations than sports,” teacher and modified wrestling coach Ken Benton said.

Coaches also said the modified teams are important feeder programs for the district’s successful high school sports programs, like football and girls’ basketball. Athletes learn important skills at the modified level that allow them to become better athletes as they progress to junior varsity and varsity, Duemler said.

Students like Brian Cranker, who said he had been looking forward to playing modified sports for years, also asked board members to change their mind.

Courtney Ramirez said she decided to move her family back to Amsterdam so her daughter, who will be in eighth grade next year, would have a good sports program to go through.

“We wanted her to have a good future, and we thought Amsterdam was the place to be,” she said.

For many, athletics is a ticket to college. Duemler said in the past nine years, 34 Amsterdam girls have gone on to play college basketball, many on scholarship.

Board members said they sympathized with the supporters of modified sports, but there was nothing they were willing to do to fund the program again.

“The budget we adopted had modified sports in it,” board President Gina DeRossi said. “The community voted it down twice, and this is the reality that we’re dealing with.”

Community sports leagues like CYO basketball and Little Giants football may also have to fundraise this year so underprivileged children can participate. The district must charge for the use of district facilities, per state law, because the district was forced to adopt a contingency budget.

The resolution passed Wednesday specified that the community has until the third Friday in August to raise $21,000 for fall sports, the third Friday in October to raise $21,000 for winter sports and the third Friday in February to raise $11,000 for spring sports.

District Business Manager Roger Seward said the figures are just estimates. The money would go into a general line item for sports as a gift to the district.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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