Sturgis Athletics (Spring 2012)

Historical Background – Patrick O’Kane, Sturgis Athletic Director and Jim Barrasso, Former  Sturgis AD 

Sturgis Athletics has a rich history of high student participation and surprising success on the field. The athletic program started in the late 1990’s, shortly after the school opened, and by as early as 2006, over half the student body played at least one sport. Our Field Hockey program embodies a lot of what our athletic program is all about. While the team has existed for over 12 seasons, it has never had a winning record. However, this program consistently has high participation and incredible team spirit. I consider it in many ways to be our most successful program. But make no mistake, our teams have also combined high participation with a high level of play. For example, our boys soccer team has qualified for the MIAA State Tournament three seasons in a row and lost close games each year. Our boys and girls tennis teams have been very competitive the past three seasons; with our girls a favorite to win the league this season. From 2006-2010, we doubled the number of teams from 10 to 20 and added  varsity sports of girls lacrosse, volleyball and softball while producing 10 state-tournament teams. It was great to see the softball team compete in the states last year in just its third season as a program. The growth of our girls and boys tennis program is another source of pride. I remember the summer of 2007, sitting down with Ken Huckins, whom I just hired as the boys tennis coach. I told him, “The good news is you’ve been hired as the coach. The bad news is, all your players have graduated. You have no returning players.” I remember sitting in Caffe E Dolci  with Ken, combing through the entire roster of boys in our school, targeting 10 students to play on the team. The players from that list, kids like Andrew Bell and Connor DeCosta, who never played tennis before in their lives, helped build a team that made the state tournament two years running! Watching Coach Huckins grow that program will always be something I’ll remember as a highlight from my time as AD. Another highlight was the winter of 2008, when Sturgis beat Provincetown on a last-second basket by Zac Camp in front of a packed house at Cape Cod Community College. What a night! That sent us to our first-ever state basketball tournament! The Provincetown fans were not too happy on that ride home. That was probably our most fun rivalry and I’m sad that it’s gone with the closing of P-Town High. It’s been fun watching the growth and success of our teams under the leadership of Mr. O’Kane the past two years! In 2009, Sturgis joined the newly formed Cape and Islands League.  The league consists of teams from Cape Cod Academy, Chatham, Cape Tech (Harwich), Nantucket, Provincetown (no longer in existence), Pope John Paul II, Sturgis East and Sturgis West (joining as a member in 2012). From these humble beginnings, our athletic department has grown considerably.  Since our inception, each subsequent year has seen a substantial increase in participation.  Junior Varsity teams have made the transition to varsity competition.  Sports with only one team have added enough members to support a varsity and JV squad.  At the end of the 2010-2011 school year, approximately 65% of students enrolled had participated in at least one sport for the year.  The current year (2011-12) is shaping up to be closer to 70%.  Only a very small number of graduates leave Sturgis without having played at least one sport.  The recent addition of our boys lacrosse program is emblematic of the growth our department has enjoyed over the past decade.
Philosophy and Goals of Sturgis Athletics
The philosophy of Sturgis Athletics is simple.  ‘Student learning is why we are here.”  Our program focuses on fostering positive Habits, Attitudes, and Values in order to achieve excellence. Sturgis Athletics maintains that every teenager can and should be allowed to participate on any sports team offered at our school.  This ‘Athletics For All’ mission includes active encouragement of students to join sports they may never have tried.  It also adheres to a ‘no cut’ policy.  Not everyone will play at the varsity level, but everyone who desires to play (and who is academically eligible), is welcome to participate in our sports programs. Under the umbrella of this philosophy, many of our teams support both a varsity and a sub-varsity team.   All squads, regardless of the level, focus on commitment to the team.  Our sub-varsity teams (junior varsity) focus on learning the fundamental skills of each sport.  Competition at this level focuses on participation and game-time experience.  Varsity teams continue this process and add a competitive component to practice and game preparation.  While the scoreboard is not the primary focus of any of our teams, varsity teams do strive to be as competitive as possible during their contests.
Athletic Resources in Our Community
One of the mantras heard around Sturgis is “buildings don’t make schools, people do.”  The same applies to our athletic department.  Our school does not own any athletic facilities, but our athletes and coaches make our department a success.  Nevertheless, our lack of facilities presents significant challenges. Our department has succeeded in working under this model, utilizing many of the fields and gyms in and around our school. The following is a list of the fields and gym spaces we have secured for our current sports programs.

-Cape Cod Community College (Tennis Courts, Basketball Gym, and Soccer Fields)
-Lopes Field (Softball and Field Hockey)
-Hyannis Youth and Community Center (Volleyball and Basketball Courts)
-Federated Church of Hyannis (Cheerleading Facility)
-Baptist Church of Hyannis (Cheerleading Facility)
-Ketleers Field in Cotuit (Baseball Facility)
-Horace Mann Charter School in Marstons Mills (Baseball Facility)
-Old Townhouse Field in Yarmouth (Soccer and Softball Game Facility)
-Sandy Pond Recreation Area in Yarmouth (Soccer, Softball, and Tennis Facilities)
-Bayberry Hills Golf Club (Cross-Country Meet Facility)
-Twin Brooks Golf Course (JV Golf Facility)
-Hyannis Golf Club (Varsity Golf Facility)
-Barnstable High School (Basketball practice facility)
-Simpkins Fields in Yarmouth (Lacrosse and Baseball Practice Facilities)
-West Villages Elementary School (Awards Banquets)
-Greek Orthodox Church (Awards Banquets)

Summary 

Sturgis Athletics is primarily a participatory program, encouraging all of our students to join at least one sport over the course of four years.  Our department has seen dramatic growth under this philosophy, as evidenced by our abundance of sports offered at both the varsity and JV levels.  It is thrilling to see so many students–students who would normally be cut from traditional high school programs–benefit from organized athletics at this level. Sturgis Charter Public School is currently in the middle of an exciting period of transition.  As Sturgis East replicates itself into a second school, Sturgis West, our athletic department will follow a similar mitosis.  Sturgis West will support a full (and independent) athletic department which offers the same athletic opportunities as Sturgis East.  As mentioned above, our challenge to find adequate facilities for our programs becomes that much more difficult.  In spite of this challenge, however, our students will continue to reap the benefits that interscholastic athletics provide.

Sturgis Coaches Reflect

Travis Andrade – Baseball 2005 – Present

When I started teaching at Sturgis in 2003, a common quote circulated throughout the student body that when it came to sports, we “lost like winners,” whatever the hell that means…When I started coaching in 2005, I had 13 baseball players and went 0-13 (0-14 if you count the loss to Cape Tech’s Junior Varsity Squad).  I wouldn’t win a game as a coach for 18 straight games.  To understand what it means to play sports for Sturgis, however, you had to have been at our second game of the season against New Testament during the 2006 season, my second year as head coach.  Sturgis had not won a Varsity game in over two seasons and going into the seventh inning of that game that day it looked as if we may go three seasons before winning a varsity game.  Losing 9-7 going into the bottom of the seventh inning we needed to mount a comeback.  The first batter failed to reach base then the next two batters reached.  A young man named Chris Butler hit a double to tie the game.   The next batter failed to reach base.  What happened next was nothing short of magic…Our catcher, Abe Miller, came to bat and with two outs and a 3-2 count, Abe singled up the middle and Chris came around to score the winning run…Our team rushed the field like we had just won the state title!

Moments like these define athletics at Sturgis.  I have had teams that won only 4 games, I have had a team that went 10-4 and was the second seeded team in the state tournament.  Wins and loses never define success for a Sturgis Team, however.  It is that random and often unexpected day that a Sturgis Team comes together and “punches above its weight,” (to quote Eric Hillenbrand) that reveal what it means to play for Sturgis.  We focus on the processes that lead to success on the field not the results.  This focus on the process rather than the result permeates everything that we do at Sturgis from academics to athletics.  After eight years of coaching, I have learned that focusing on what it takes to win will not always translate into victories but it will always leave the athlete (and coach) with a sense of accomplishment.  It is important to remember too that sometimes you win games against overwhelming odds, and when you do, you will carry that experience with you for the rest of your life…

Steve Austin – Girls Soccer Coach 2005 – Present; Girls Lacrosse Coach 2009 – Present

Late August 2005, when I asked my friend Tom to come help me get a girls soccer team started for Sturgis, we found some space next to an abandoned school and set up our cones to begin working with the new team.  Four players showed up that first day: two juniors and two freshmen. We did the best we could that day and asked them to each see if they could recruit a player or two for the next day. By the time the season started, we had 14 or 15 players and jumped right into play as a varsity team. Needless to say, we did not have much success in the win column but we had fun and began developing a culture that has stayed with the program: play hard, play fair, have good sportsmanship no matter what, never whine and have fun. It took four years before we were able to make an appearance in the state tournament.  Two of those freshmen from the first day were now senior captains and we were beginning to draw enough players to begin a JV team the following August. A year later, the team was awarded the Cape Cod Soccer Officials Sportsmanship award.  Last fall, we had almost 40 players sign up and made our second foray into the states. We were getting closer to the second round when we lost 1-0 in a very tense, nervous game.

The students who make up our teams balance a difficult academic schedule with the added pressure of regular practices and games. They exhibit exemplary sportsmanship –  sometimes under really adverse pressures – something that is not always easy in a world that mostly measures success simply by wins and losses. Now beginning my 3rd season with the lacrosse team, I realize  it is not just our soccer players who exhibit these qualities, but all the Sturgis athletes  I have had the opportunity to work with. I overheard some of our players chatting with a couple of Nantucket players after a game as they looked at all the Nantucket facilities: “No, we don’t have a swimming pool, um , well no, we don’t actually have a gym…Nope, no cafeteria, or auditorium. Oh…well we borrow fields to play on. We just have a school.” The Nantucket students seemed unsure how to respond when our students didn’t seem to think any of that really mattered. They are so right……we have a school….and it is a very special school.   I believe the academic, foreign travel, and cultural experiences our students are exposed to everyday help them become more thoughtful, responsible, caring people. This shows up in their everyday lives, on the fields, as well as in the classrooms.

It is a privilege and pleasure to have the chance to work with a group of interesting and industrious young people.

Brian Hastings – Boys Soccer Coach 2007 -, Girls Tennis Coach 2008 –

One of the biggest adjustments that a “seasoned” (Coach Huckins doesn’t like the term “old”) coach has to face when he or she starts at Sturgis is the lack of any athletic facilities!!  Jim and Patrick have done a great job of “begging, borrowing and stealing” places for our teams to practice and play. (Well, maybe not “stealing”!!)  Most public and private high schools have athletic facilities right outside of their doors.  At Sturgis, I don’t think that the town of Hyannis would agree to change Main Street into green grass and wide open spaces so that our athletes could have that same kind of athletic experience.  Although it takes some getting used to for the coaches,  parents and athletes have to adapt as well.  Just finding some of the places that Coach Barrasso and Coach O’Kane have come up with requires a sophisticated GPS !    In addition to all the tasks that normal AD’s are faced with every day, at Sturgis our AD has to also coordinate daily transportation to practices all over the place.   All kidding aside, both AD’s have done an unbelievable job at building the athletic program that we currently have.  I really don’t think athletes or parents realize just how much time and effort these two men have given and what they’ve meant to the building and success of our teams.

In any sport, at any school, coaches will tell you that one of the most difficult tasks is to “cut” an athlete from a team.  Similar to the “IB for All” approach at Sturgis, the “athletics for all” concept promotes participation.  As the size and spectrum of the athletics program grows at Sturgis, this policy presents new challenges for our coaches.  Last year, in both boys and girls tennis, Coach Huckins and I both had twenty athletes (and three courts).  Most high school tennis teams consist of 10-12 athletes.  When I started with soccer five years ago on the outfield at Lopes, our team consisted of 16 players.   Over the last two years, the boys soccer program has grown to more than forty players and moved to 4 C’s.  We have added a JV team and almost have the numbers for a freshmen team.   Here again, where do we find the coaches, the fields, the transportation and the funding?   Through it all, the one thing that really stands out in my mind and makes the whole thing work are the athletes themselves.  They are a great bunch of people to work with and make coaching at Sturgis fun and rewarding.   It’s my pleasure to be part of it.

Ken Huckins – Boys Soccer Coach 2007 – Present; Boys Tennis Coach

Coming from a large Division 1 sports program, I find Sturgis sports to be more student/athlete oriented. At a Division 1 school, the success of the athletic programs is based on the win-loss records. Success of Sturgis athletic programs is measured by student participation.

The no-cut policy at Sturgis creates a wide range of talent levels on any given team. However, as a credit to the players, I’ve never seen anything but team unity and camaraderie between teammates. Even with a no-cut policy, Sturgis has had winning teams in baseball, boys and girls soccer, cross-country, boys basketball, and boys and girls tennis.

I’ve had a closer working relationship with the Athletic Directors and other coaches at Sturgis than I had during twelve years of coaching at a larger school.

Student Athletes Reflect

Kaitlin Doherty ~ Varsity Field Hockey Team Captain

My fondest memories of the Sturgis Varsity Field Hockey Team are the moments when the team really bonded.  For me, the parties, charades, and crazy moments on the field are the ones that mean the most.  We learned more about each other as teammates and as friends during these times.  I strongly believe the Sturgis Varsity Field Hockey Team is unique to Sturgis Athletics.  We are very close to each other, and we work together inside and outside of school.  If someone needs help with schoolwork or we want to see a college field hockey game together, we are there to see it with each other.  More importantly, we are all very supportive of each other.

Without the amazing coaches, sports directors and team support I would never have gone as far as I have or pushed myself as much as I have.  We all work extremely hard in school, and Sturgis Athletics is a way to take a step back from doing homework and studying to have fun.  There is something really special about Sturgis Athletics that sets it apart. We develop very close bonds with our teammates and we always support each other, on and off the field.  The coaches work just as hard, if not harder than any other coaches because they realize academics come first at Sturgis, which requires coaches to excuse students when they need to catch up on work or stay after school for extra help.  This can sometimes slow down the progress of the team, but the coaches understand that at Sturgis academics are and will always be first.  Also, even though the best sports record is not as great as our academic record, Sturgis Athletic teams are improving so much, mostly due to the dedication and commitment of the coaches we have at Sturgis.  We couldn’t do it without them!  Go Sturgis Storm!

Zach Fayne ~ Varsity Golf, JV and Varsity Basketball and Varsity Tennis

Sturgis athletics is unlike any other kind of sports program because it teaches students how to become well-rounded individuals through sports. I remember the first day I played a Sturgis Sport. I stepped onto the golf course with many nerves and fears. However, the athletic community welcomed me and made me as comfortable as I could be. Within my four years at Sturgis, I have played Varsity golf for four years, both JV and Varsity Basketball, and Varsity Tennis. Sports are not simply an extra-curricular activity at Sturgis, they are a way to express yourself and relieve stress from the intense academic program. The one thing that I personally believe makes Sturgis athletics so special is that similar to “IB for all” it is “sports for all” with a no cut policy that allows anyone who wishes to play sports the ability to do so. I have had the pleasure of being a captain of three different sports teams at Sturgis. By taking on the leadership and responsibility of being a captain, I have been able to watch students turn into respected athletes. Time and time again, Sturgis is rewarded with accolades in sportsmanship, and I believe this is an accurate representation of how Sturgis athletes play sports. Although every athlete plays to win, Sturgis athletes also play to have fun. Society has become so caught up with the competitive nature of sports that people often forget how to have fun and continue smiling throughout playing. However, Sturgis athletics is always filled with fun and smiles that make it a welcoming and comforting community.

My most memorable experience as a Sturgis athlete was a golf tournament in Nantucket my junior year. It was the Cape Cod and Islands Invitational and our team had gone in with no expectation but to enjoy the scenery and be appreciative of the opportunity to play golf.  However, we all persevered, played well and ended up winning the entire tournament. Afterwards, we didn’t focus on holding up our trophies or gloating, we focused on making friends with our opponents and having a good time. Sturgis sports are about finding who you are as a person with all your strengths and weaknesses. Through excellent coaching and leadership,  the athletic program at Sturgis teaches students how to cooperate in sports  and learn things that are unable to be learned inside the classroom. Athletics is not always about winning.  It is about accepting each other and Sturgis embraces that policy.

Liz Lozada ~ Varsity Soccer

Sturgis sports are unlike other sports teams I’ve played for. The coaches are great coaches; they’re strict but also understanding at the same time. Considering Sturgis academics, the coaches are lenient. At the same time, they set high standards for us and expect us to meet them too. I love Sturgis sports. I’ve participated in two sports during all four years at Sturgis as well as Sturgis Stompers. I’m going to miss the sports and the friends I made here more than anything else at Sturgis.

The first friends I made at Sturgis were from soccer my freshmen year and I’m still close with those friends today. I’ve had so much fun through  sports at Sturgis.  Sometimes other teams don’t take us very seriously as a sports team, but I think over the past couple of years, we really have given people a run for their money and I love that. During soccer especially, we have surprised quite a few teams;  just seeing the looks on the other girl’s and coach’s faces has been priceless. Playing for Sturgis has taught me a lot about myself and about other people as well. Granted, everyone has to work together and play as a team, but I’ve also learned how to communicate verbally and non-verbally so much better and not just think about myself while being out there on the field but think of all of my other teammates out there as well and work closely with them. I’ve learned how to be patient, competitive and aggressive, but not overbearing. I’ve played on teams outside of Sturgis but I can honestly say the bond Sturgis teams create is something I have not experienced anywhere else.  To me, it is so important for people to be on the same page with each other in order to be able to work together successfully. I feel like Sturgis sports will never stop developing and will improve more and more each year.  I can’t wait to see what they’re like five years from now. Sturgis sports have taught me things on and off the field that I will never forget and will take with me and use whereever I go. From the players to the coaches to the referees to the opponents to the supporters on the sidelines, I could never say anything bad about Sturgis sports. I’ll never forget the people I shared my sports career with here; they taught me, shared with me and helped me be the best player I could be.

Lucas Peterson ~ Varsity Soccer Captain

This past year I was captain of the soccer team for Sturgis. It was an eventful year, and being my first time as a captain, it was new and very exciting. We went to the first round of the state tournament, and lost 0-1 in a very close game. Even though we lost, I was very happy for the whole team playing the whole way through till the end. I started soccer freshman year at Sturgis. I progressed through the years and became the captain. And even though I know my soccer skills are not any more than average, my coaches saw I would be a leader. I’m thankful for all my coaches have done, and I would never go back and change anything.

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