Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pennsbury's Quest for School Recognition

Some of the country's most distinguished high school programs are legitimized at their high school with recognized varsity status. Amherst, Paideia, NMH, and the Northwest School all have the recruiting edge of being school-affiliated. Even lower-level programs at some schools, such as New Jersey's Watchung Hills and Ridgewood, have achieved some measure of varsity status, be it as a varsity activity (like marching band) or varsity sport. Pennsbury is kind of a new kid on the block, with a program relatively young and their rapid rise to success began four years ago, when they won their first Pennsylvania State Championship. Read on for the full Q&A with Pennsbury captain Isaac Saul.

Playultimate: When did Pennsbury start pushing for school recognition?
Isaac: Well, we started pushing for recognition probably three or four years ago, after we won our first State Championship. To be honest, before than we didn't have much interest in being school recognized, they never respected us from day one. And, of course, they had their reasons not too, but all in all we have always been a group of good kids who really just loved the game, and the reason we have had success is because these kids dedicate their lives to the game. It has always come first, before school, girlfriends, pretty much everything except family. It's quite the obsession.

Playultimate: What was the school's initial response?
Isaac: I couldn't tell you the schools immediate response, but all in all it was a big fat no. They didn't want to worry about us, they didn't think what we did was an actual sport, they didnt care that we won states, they figured it was just a tournament of 5 or 6 teams. They had no interest in supporting us, and still to this day I don't think they give us the respect we deserve. I mean, you told someone you played ultimate in our school and they laughed. You either got, "oh do you play with dogs?" or "ultimate frisbee? you mean smoking pot?"
No one ever understood us, or understood why we loved the game and everything that came with it so much. I can tell you though, the first meeting my co-captain Justin Principi and I had with the school went something like this... "Hey how are you guys this morning?" Athletic director and principle.. "pretty good, so we wanted to talk about getting our team some school recognition?".. "well we can't give fund you or give you fields, your not a part of the state AAAA sports program, and we don't want to pay for jerseys." So that was pretty much the end of that meeting.

Playultimate: What obstacles did you face in getting school recognition?
Isaac: I think the biggest obstacle we faced in getting the school recognition when getting over the stereo type that this was not a legit sport. No one believed we went to organized tournaments, or practice, or had offense and defense. I never really knew what they thought about us, maybe that we were just a bunch of kids who threw a frisbee around and wanted to call ourselves a team? Who knows. The bottom line was that they didn't want to give us fields, wouldn't fund us in any way, they didn't even put us in the club pamphlet for the school (which features about 90 other programs outside of the 6 or 7 major varsity sports).

Playultimate: What does it mean for the team now that you're an "official club sport"? Are there benefits/restrictions?
Isaac: Now that were an "official club sport" it means a few things. It is pretty much all positive, I mean because they aren't involved in PHUEL the local league, they can not put any restrictions on us. Nothing holds us back as far as traveling like Paideia or Amherst etc. The benefits are pretty substantial. We can fund raise in school, post flyers, make announcements, we have an EOP or free period for ultimate now (they have EOPS for all the other clubs, even game film for the football team) and in general we can promote ourselves as a Pennsbury Falcon team. Pretty much everything except funding and school restrictions. This, in my eyes, will hopefully bring in a huge recruiting class this and next year. I mean, my biggest fear is the team falls off when I graduate because my family won't be involved anymore. That is pretty much the heart of this whole thing, we want as many teams and players as possible, and being able to advertise the team as a legitimate school sport will (hopefully) help that greatly.

Playultimate: Do you have/need a school employee as a coach? Or any coach?
Isaac: Right now, our coach is Parent of a student in the district. He has two children who are both in Elementary School and is pretty much a great help and backbone to have as someone we can say is our adult supervisor. I also want to make a HUGEEE shoutout to Mr. Ketschek. He is a teacher in the English Dept. at our school and has pretty been working so hard behind the scenes with us forever. He has been a huge help, he runs the yearbook and got us in it the last two or three years, AND, he is the teacher who is directing our EOP. We have 4,000 kids at our school, and its split up into two buildings of thousand. They are all one campus, but they're called East and West. Well, 200 kids alone, just in the "East" building applied for this EOP. We're hoping that we get the same numbers out to our tryouts coming up in March. But Mr. K has just been an all around great help and an awesome connection to the school. He has been backin us up all the way.

Playultimate: Is there anything I didn't cover? Something you'd like to add about the process, recognition, the future, advice for other teams, etc.?
Isaac: There isn't much we didn't cover. I mean all I can say to the people trying to do this is don't think JUST about your school. We went to the community first, the parents, the kids. I mean we essentially went over the school. I was emailing the supervisor of the district, not just the head principle. The school will ignore you as long as they can, thats a fact I have come to accept. They don't want more to worry about. But approach the community, go to township meetings, look up email addresses on your school calender, go to community day, we did all of this just to get our name out there. Its a long process, and this is only the beginning. I want to be fully school recognized soon, but who knows? I just want to come back in 10 years, and see Pennsbury Ultimate at Easterns, or Nationals, or States, or whatever the biggest high school ultimate tournament of the year was.

I also want to make a plug for our tournament, Born to Dive April 19th and 20th. It is being hosted on our huge campus with awesome fields. This is all a sequel to everything you just read, its gonna be the first time we play in the spot light of our school and we wanna make a huge splash so send in a bid !!! Its posted up on score reporter on, if you don't wanna go there you can just email me Its gonna be sick fields, sick teams, and lots of fun. VC ultimate will be there and possibly a college showcase game.
Are there any other schools out there facing a struggle to receive recognition from their schools? Some teams, like Columbia, are completely unaffiliated with the school's administration. Others decline representation because of restrictions placed on by the school. Can someone from a school with restrictions, like Paideia, weigh in on the tradeoff?


Anonymous said...

more bias....

Anonymous said...

why doesn't columbia have school support

Peaches said...

This isn't biased, its a serious aspect of getting people to appreciate the commitment put into this sport. Its frustrating how misunderstood the sport really is, and i am glad that Ultimate is slowly getting some well earned recognition.

Anonymous said...

i dont even know what your talking about? "more bias" ?

Anonymous said...

most schools dont get support, not matter how good the team is

Caitlyn said...

I saw this team at a tournament, they were not spirited on the field (bad calls, and being rude about any calls made). I wasn't even on the field and when I asked them to something as simple as "don't go on the field during a point" one of the kids yelled and cursed at me.
If they want to be a varsity sport they should start acting like varsity athletes and not children.
Cursing and yelling at people at tournaments while using the school's name is no way to get recognized for the "good things" the team is doing.