By Sam Wilson
The initial number isn’t as high as Joe DeMartino or Chris Schiumo had hoped, but with recognition and word of mouth, they can boost the number of West Valley students who elect to play sports in Springville this year.
Since taking on the job of West Valley athletic director and physical education teacher this summer and moving from Virginia, Schiumo has worked with DeMartino, the Springville AD, on the plan to bring students north for the fall sports season. In recent years, West Valley had sent athletes to Ellicottville for sports due to low participation numbers making it impossible to field its own teams in most sports.
West Valley students have the opportunity to play any sport — modified, junior varsity or varsity — that Springville offers. So far, Schiumo said he expects “between 10 and 15” to play a fall sport.
“Modified sports are starting up on Monday, so we have a couple kids trying out for modified teams,” Schiumo said. “At the end of the day, it might be about 10 kids.”
DeMartino, who met with Schiumo on Tuesday to give him a tour of the SGI facilities and meet coaches, said he wished the number was higher.
“That would have been ideal, but we’re hoping with the winter and then spring certainly, once the word gets out, that this is a great opportunity for kids to participate,” DeMartino said. “We did a thing in the spring leading up to (this) where we invited the whole West Valley student body, grades six through 11, because that would have been this year’s seventh through 12th graders, and gave them a tour of the facility. We told them, ‘Hey, take advantage of what’s here. Take advantage, you’re welcome.’
“For example this morning there was an eighth grader who just showed up and she wanted to be on the swim team. So our coaches are receptive, they’re taking kids in. At West Valley, Chris has set up a transportation schedule to coordinate with our practices even during the summer here so kids, they’re getting that transportation. I think once the word gets out and the opportunity gets out, I’m hoping for greater participation this winter and certainly hoping we can carry that momentum into the spring.”
While mergers in high school sports increase to a team’s BEDS numbers for sectional classification, adding a percentage of West Valley’s enrollment did not change Springville’s position in any league or class for the 2019-20 year.
“That was one of the concerns back in the spring when we had talked about combining schools, what the impact would be to our BEDS numbers, to our classification, to our divisional alignments,” DeMartino said. “This year we are a solid (ECIC) Div. III for most of our teams, so whether we took 20 or 30 percent of their enrollment (for BEDS calculations), it did not impact us.
“In all of our programs, we did not bump up a division or a classification as a result of this combining of schools.”
Schiumo said the logistics haven’t been too challenging in sending students roughly 20 minutes north each day for practice.
“Springville’s been great with communicating with us. Their coaches have been fantastic,” he said. “They just really shoot me a message, let me know what time they’re practicing for the week. (Athletic secretary) Debbie Simmons over there has been great with letting me know when games are. So it’s really they’ve been communicating with me when practices are, I put it on the schedule and send it off to our transportation people who have been our aces in the hole so far. They’ve been great with getting kids to Springville or to the middle school and picking them up as well.”
Schiumo said he plans to promote West Valley’s athletes on the walls of the school, giving them some recognition for their accomplishments while playing out of town.
“We’re going to put all our fall athletes, we’re going to put their face and a biography about them right on our wall,” he said, “to advertise it as much as they can to get these kids really wanting to be involved with sports and get out there and play as much as possible.”
Another plan to boost youth participation: intramurals.
“We’re starting (intramurals) as early as the third grade just to kind of expose them to these sports,” Schiumo said, “and give them more opportunities to familiarize themselves with the game and just getting out there and playing the sport. We’re hoping if we can get them in third and fourth grade and continue it, then by the time that they’re able to play high school sports, then that’s a direction they take.”
West Valley’s goal remains — eventually, at least — to field its own sports teams. The school has continued its varsity bowling program and Schiumo hopes to have more in the winter.
“If we can field a basketball team, we’re going to put a basketball team out there,” he said. “And that goes pretty much for every sport. But in the meantime, if we’re not able, those numbers aren’t there, we’re hoping to double or triple it just by the winter. I would love to see 24 kids heading over to Springville for the winter season and then continuing to increase those numbers for the spring as well.
“I’m fortunate enough to be working hand in hand with these students as their PE teacher, so just giving that opportunity to these kids and letting them know that the opportunity is there to represent West Valley in a sport.”