2011 Year in Review. January 16. Wolcott Tech Makes the Right Move.
Wolcott Tech Makes the Right Move
Give Wolcott Tech principal Robert Axon credit. He wanted what was best for his student athletes and school in general and that meant pulling the Wildcats out of the Berkshire League after a 24-year run.
In case you missed it, Wolcott Tech notified the BL Athletic Directors Thursday afternoon that will be ending their affiliation with the BL at the end of the current school year. The Wildcats will join the 22-member Constitution State League which is dominated by vo-tech schools.
All of the Wildcats’ sports teams will play in the CSC including their four-year old football program which will leave the Pequot Conference. Meanwhile the BL will drop to 10 teams.
While the Wildcats’ departure serves up some questions for the BL to address, it is hard to see how both sides won’t benefit from the decision. In reality the move was a long time coming.
Wolcott Tech’s decision is not hard to understand – they want to win more. The Wildcats almost quarter of a century ride in the BL has been a struggle, particularly on the girls’ side.
While the boys’ teams have enjoyed periodic success in baseball (remember Jon and Jason Chabre and Al Rogala), basketball, soccer and volleyball, the girls program has been unable to field the number of programs most BL schools offer and those established teams have been a non-competitive entity.
Numbers have been low and softball and basketball scores have been one-sided to the extreme. Losing streaks in some sports have been in triple digits. It was a concern when the Wildcats first joined the league.
BL Athletic Directors had originally voted not to admit the Wildcats in large part because of the non-competitive nature of their girls teams. It took an impassioned plea from then Wolcott Tech Principal Dr. William Perlotto to convince the BL Principals to override their A.D.’s concerns and admit the school.
There has always been a mixed attitude towards the Wildcats’ girl’s teams from the rest of the BL coaches. There have been those who have enjoyed the automatic two wins as they look to qualify for the state tournament.
But there have always been those that frankly saw playing the Wildcats as a waste of time. A familiar refrain around the league has been, “I get more out of practicing.” The `dreaded’ Wolcott Tech game meant a lot of playing time for the JVs but did little if anything to make teams better.
The question was never about the Wildcats’ effort or the immense time so many coaches have put in. The talent level was just not up to a competitive level.
“Wolcott Tech players have always been pleasant and courteous despite getting beat by significant numbers,” said long-time Northwestern Regional girls basketball coach and current A.D. Fred Williams. “I think this move is a good one for the Tech teams and student body in terms of being more competitive in most sports.”
“I think it is good for them and good for our league,” echoed Gilbert A.D. Mike Gamari.
And make no mistake about it; losing takes its toll in many ways, especially in promoting interest, a concern noted by Axon in an interview with the Waterbury Republican Friday. Trying to build basketball and softball programs with seven players or 11 players is not an ingredient to a winning program. Vo-Tech schools are specialty schools and one of the specialties is not attracting interested athletes for the most part.
So give the Wolcott Tech people credit for both realizing all of this and finally doing something about it. They have latched on to the idea that success and a level playing field are a major priority and the CSC is a better fit.
The idea of leaving the BL is not a new one, but Perlotto’s selling point that the Tech’s kids were kids from BL towns and travel costs would be kept down balanced the scales for a long time.
The Wildcats transportation bill will now rise dramatically as the take on teams like Abbott Tech (Danbury), O’ Brien Tech (Ansonia) and Wilcox Tech (Meriden). But being athletically competitive and finding the winning side a little more often has finally ruled the day.
Where does all of this leave the BL.? For years coaches have embraced the idea of playing outside the BL like in the old days, to give their teams a look at other teams and put some more competition on the schedule.
“It will allow certain sports to schedule other teams to be more competitive like Lewis Mills in girls soccer,’ said Williams.
Gamari did throw up a caution flag, however.
“With the mega-leagues and some sports with filled up schedules it may be difficult find two games to complete our schedules.”
Would the BL entertain the idea of replacing Wolcott Tech? It is hard to imagine that happening right now with a little breathing room finally available to schedule outside the league. The question may be moot, however, since there may not be a team interested in joining the BL.
Certain names have popped up but at this point it is nothing more than idle chatter.
For now, take your hat off to Wolcott Tech for making a difficult decision that should only benefit their sports teams and school for the future.
It is a decision that both the Wildcats and the Berkshire League will be better for.