Area schools may share teams

GRANADA – Differing opinions reigned Wednesday when the Granada-Huntley-East Chain School Board hosted a gathering about a sports sharing cooperative with Truman and Martin Luther high schools.

Board members, administration, coaches, parents and players from all three schools were present.

Currently, Martin Luther and GHEC share a girls volleyball team. Truman would like to join that co-op. For girls basketball, GHEC and Truman share a team, and Martin Luther would like to join.

In April, the three schools voted to unite for boys basketball.

Terry Bentele, GHEC activities director, told about 50 people attending the session that the purpose is to help get input so the school boards could make informed decisions. He noted that fewer students have resulted in the need to share teams. The bottom line, Bentele said, is “all of us want to offer our kids as many opportunities as possible.

The first portion of the meeting focused on combining the volleyball teams. Steve Schlager, athletic director in Truman, said he has possibly nine girls for volleyball and no B squad.

“You want to have competition, to push each other to get better,” he said. “We’re a sprained ankle away from not being able to participate.

Combining the teams from the trio of schools would produce about 40 players.

“You really don’t know until people show up for tryouts,” said Paul Steinhaus, principal at Martin Luther, in support of the three-way sharing. “We’re in a position to help, and that has to be what’s best for the kids.”

Some of the players commented on the positive aspects of the proposal, such as more competition, as well as the negatives, such as too many players and not enough playing time.

The athletic directors and coaches noted that the larger pool of players could be split into A, B, C and junior varsity teams, with the younger students being on developmental teams, yet scrimmaging with the varsity.

“As the years go on, more and more of our stuff is going to be together,” said Tom Taylor, Martin Luther activities director, about the three schools.

The second portion of the meeting focused on combining the girls basketball teams and prompted one parent to question why they aren’t already united.

Taylor explained that Truman had approached Martin Luther with a co-op request last year, but Martin Luther wanted to wait a year. Truman then teamed with GHEC.

“So now this is us coming to you. Looking down the road, we’re going to need each other,” Taylor said.

Some parents balked at the idea of joining with Martin Luther, claiming there are enough students with just GHEC and Truman.

“We have a lot of kids, but we don’t necessarily have a lot of players,” said Rick Uttech, coach of the current girls basketball pairing.

He added that last season a lack of players on the C squad resulted in that team having to cancel some games.

Steinhaus said Martin Luther “could do it ourselves, but I think it’d be better together.”

Robbin Celander, former GHEC boys basketball coach, supported the competitive aspect that would result with more players.

“It’s hard for them to get better when there’s no competition in practice,” Celander said.

Linda Stauder, a GHEC parent, opposed expanding the existing co-op, pointing out the caliber of the younger students.

“Why not develop what we’ve got?” she asked.

Combining the programs would increase competition, said Bryan Nowicki, GHEC board member.

“Some people are scared of competition,” he said. “If there’s competition, you should never know you’re going to start.”