Niskayuna coaches, educators and politicians are looking for upgrades to town sports programs.
That was one reason behind Monday night's meeting inside the old cafeteria at Niskayuna High School - the first step for a partnership of parties involved in youth sports.
Twenty-five coaches, educators, members of the Niskayuna Town Board and members of the Niskayuna Central School District Board of Education offered ideas to improve the sports experience for kids during the 90-minute session.
"The purpose is to eventually lead to a partnership that supports all athletics, from the youth leagues on up to the school level in Niskayuna, just to wed the two together," said Joe DiCaprio, principal of the town's Rosendale Elementary School, who organized the kick-off gathering. "And at the same time, hopefully it leads to a facilities upgrade that is acceptable to the community and non-athletic students - you don't necessarily have to be in a sport to access the swimming pool or use the track."
Sports represented included swimming, basketball, rowing, baseball, football, lacrosse and soccer. Coaches all agreed that sports are an important component as kids grow and mature.
"You learn about camaraderie, you learn about sticking to a process," DiCaprio said. "You learn about learning how to lose with grace, persevering through injuries and maybe you don't get along with somebody but you have to pass them the rock so you have to figure out how to co-exist."
Youth basketball coach Chris Ingemie said in his playing days, kids could always find a place to run, dribble and shoot. On a snowy or rainy day, the church or school gym was easily opened and kids played for hours.
Ingemie believes today's advance approvals and money for gym rentals keep kids off the courts and out of the sports. "How do we get kids to play more?" he asked.
Larry Gillooley, athletic director at Niskayuna High School, said custodial coverage is a concern, and a reason why gyms cannot be opened more often. He said a wear-and-tear factor is also a consideration, if so many begin using facilities.
Stacey Apfelbaum, program director and girls varsity coach for Niskayuna rowing, suggested something that does not cost money - varsity teams should invite younger kids on youth teams to a varsity home game, and seat them right behind the bench. An announcement can be made to recognize the younger athletes.
"It just gives them the opportunity to get involved," Apfelbaum said, adding the younger kids' parents will also attend the games. "It gets them to come back."
Scott Mogavero, who coaches youth football and cheer leading, suggested a better social media presence. Team schedules, posted regularly, could encourage more attendance and more team spirit.
There were other ideas - such as getting kids to not focus just on their particular sports, but focusing on being a "Warrior" for Niskayuna sports teams. Kids should also be encouraged to watch their classmates play basketball, football and other sports - and return to days when people packed gyms and field stands for basketball and football.
Coaches suggested varsity coaches take interest in youth sports. The said kids should be encouraged to stick together and play together as they rise to Niskayuna High School team levels. And sports schedules should not overlap; one coach complained he loses some players from a football team in October when kids must report to an early-season basketball practice.
The group plans to meet again in June.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]