When tryouts began at Law this past preseason, coach Stacy Loch noticed something.
“We used to have 50 to 60 kids coming out and now we have maybe 35,” she said.
She said dwindling numbers have been a trend at the school for the past few years. From multi-sport athletes becoming all but extinct, to girls just not wanting to make the commitment, she said there are many factors as to why her numbers are dropping so sharply.
“A lot of kids play a lot of different sports,” she said. “That could have some effect on it.”
It’s been the same at Career, with basketball players sticking to the basketball court as opposed to the volleyball court. Coach Jonathan Heller said he’s not getting as many multi-sport athletes, but his numbers would be higher, and he’d have more freshmen, if orientation and the start of the season were earlier.
“It’s tough getting (freshmen) in,” he said. “I can do whatever in the spring for sophomores and juniors, but that’s where the challenge is.”
Getting the Word Out
A congratulatory tweet to the prom king and queen from this past May was Law’s introduction to Twitter. Loch said the team has taken to social media and it has been a useful tool thus far.
“We’re getting people to recognize us on social media,” Loch said.
She has 24 players total on her team, 12 on junior varsity and 12 on varsity. The team’s twitter account posts athletic department information and the team’s scores. Loch said the program also looks to publicize to the middle schools in Milford.
“Our school does open house for eighth graders and they can check us out at the activity fair,” she said.
At Career, Heller said he and his coaching staff try to connect with Career’s current students in hopes of making them future Panthers.
“We’re interacting with the kids all the time,” he said. “It’s not like we’re just showing up for practice and games. That helps a lot.”
He teaches marketing at the school, which does not hurt when it comes to getting the word out. Although his numbers are relatively low, he said due to the school’s lack of space he actually would rather his team stay under 25 players. He has 21, only four are freshmen.
“We have a pretty good turnout,” he said. “Numbers were about the same, if not a couple more.”
He said just under 30 students tried out for the team. He said he is able to keep numbers where he wants them by having his team participate in a summer league in Woodbridge and by making home games free to attend.
“We have a loyal fanbase and they keep coming,” he said. “Everybody knows about us and they’ll ask ‘how’d you do last night?’ ”
As Law attempts to get numbers back to where they were years ago, and Career thrives by keeping them down, Cheshire has seen an increase.
A New Trend?
Cheshire has long produced a successful girls volleyball program. However, a 51-match winning streak is enough to get students to take notice.
“We got a lot of press,” said coach Sue Bavone. “The kids see that and they want to be a part of that.”
And 31 students will have the chance to be a part of the Rams’ successful program. Bavone said numbers have been up the past few years, as her team had 21 freshman try out last year and 18 this year.
“We’ve really promoted, we do have a middle school program so that helps,” she said. “A lot of those kids filter into the high school and we also have a camp we run in the summer, so kids get exposure to the sport earlier.”
She said 47 kids came out for tryouts. Bavone said she likes to keep her team at 28, 14 for junior varsity and 14 for varsity. As far as the extinction of the multi-sport athlete, specifically in basketball, out of the 31 players on her team only two play basketball.
Cheshire is looking to avenge its loss in last season’s state final to Darien, which ended its 51-game dominance over the state in volleyball.
Meanwhile, Law is 3-6, and looking to pick up another five wins to get into the state tournament.
With success on the court, a social media presence and relationship with the middle schools, Loch is confident that her program could one day enjoy the same luxuries of a Cheshire.
“The more we strive as a school to get our information out there and get people coming out and trying out, that’ll help,” she said.