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ROUGH TERRAIN Beck races on a hilly and rocky course on his mountain bike. “I like longer courses because of the terrain and how it’s not just the same thing over and over,” Beck said. “On these courses, it’s about navigating the hills and maintaining a good pace because the course is so long.”
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New Varsity Sports; Dreams or Reality?

We’ve heard calls for new teams, but how likely are they to actually be added?
New Varsity Sports; Dreams or Reality?

Every year, a “sports interest” survey is sent to every student in the upper school, which is a list of every sport offered for the upper school along with some prospective sports as well as a question box where interest in any sport is indicated. In recent years, though, there has been increasing interest in new sports, like boys volleyball, girls lacrosse, and even a coed alpine ski team. These have been the center of conversation for years now, and with the changing of the guard at the athletic director, doubt is growing about the prospect of ever getting these new teams. 

At the head of the efforts is new athletic director Tom Ward, who replaced the recently retired Meg Seng. He is the lynchpin for the process of adding any new teams. “Every year, we send out our survey and as per interest level, we decide whether we offer that MHSAA sport or not,” said Ward. “We’re always looking at the numbers and we’re always trying to offer what we can sustain.”

There are many things that need to go into creating a new athletic program, and without them, a team simply won’t get off the ground. 

“There is a process we have to go through, like making sure we have sustainable numbers, coaching facilities, and the financial means to support [a new program],” said Ward. 

Another sport that has exploded in the MHSAA is boys volleyball, which has also pulled a notable amount of interest from all grades. 

“Boys volleyball is growing super fast, so the expectation is that there will be enough boys volleyball programs in Michigan for it to be an MHSAA sponsored sport maybe as soon as next year.” said Ward. “We wouldn’t be able to offer it this spring, but kind of like girls lacrosse, if we see interest,  it could be possible in the next few years.”

Nate Gajar ‘24 had interest in boys volleyball when the first notion of adding it came into consideration. He has maintained interest ever since, even into the beginning of his senior year.

“I can’t say that I’m satisfied. If the athletic department told me they had made some progress, I would be happy, but that just hasn’t happened,” said Gajar. “I know that across all four grades there would be enough interest for a team to form.”

Ward’s plan for communicating with the students about what sports are wanted is to take what the students say on the annual sports survey and use it to determine priority of adding new teams.

 “[New sports] are as high of a priority as the interest survey shows. As we get closer to winter and the change of sports, we will push the survey a bit more,” said Ward. “It depends on numbers and the kind of interest students have.”

An alpine ski team was also included on the most recent surveys, but it will prove to be the most challenging sport to try adding. 

“Skiing is a whole different ball game,” said Ward. “The worry is that some people may sign up thinking ‘Oh, I might like this’ but have never skied before. Part of the application is having a really good understanding of the numbers so that we can sustain it, and we don’t want to have a program that lasts one year.”

Part of the movement to add skiing is John Sadrack ‘24, who skis as a member of the XLR8 Alpine Race Team, an independent organization.

Slamming Sticks
John Sadrack ‘26 racing through slalom gates at Mount Brighton Ski resort.
“Skiing after a long day of school work is an amazing feeling,” said Sadrack.

“I was making progress with Meg, but the switch has made it kind of hard,” said Sadrack. “If we don’t get a team here, I would really like to partner with another school, like FGR or one of the public schools,” said Sadrack.

The biggest issue with getting an alpine ski team is costliness. Ski racing requires a minimum of 14 different pieces of equipment, some of which cost up to 1,100 dollars, like a set of skis, and renting costs 250 dollars on average only for skis and poles. The athletic department also has to rent a hill for a season, which costs upwards of 5,000 dollars, fund trips to race events to hills up north, and pay coaches. The combined cost for one ski season would be upwards of 100,000, between parents and the athletic department, and could end up costing more depending on weather and team size. This aside, Sadrack still knows there are great reasons for joining a team.

“I think we have a group that would want to join (the team), it’s a lot of fun to go skiing and riding up the chairlift with your friends,” said Sadrack. “I think the issue is the expensive part of skiing. You have to buy skis, a jacket, and find a place to ski. It’s an environment based sport,” said Sadrack.

Even though these sports have not made much progress, the athletic department remains focused on the students’ suggestions. These new programs could become part of the 20 varsity sports already offered in the near future, but that is up to the students. 

“When we add a new sport, it has to fit our mission which is ensuring that students are involved in different parts of our community,” said Ward. “As long as the sport allows us to meet those goals, which I think these sports do, they are a possibility”

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