Camps open all across WNY as the 2016-17 high school sports season is underway
Safe to say that a lot student-athletes had a restless night’s sleep on Aug.14. Lots of nervous energy racing through their bodies as they prepared for the next day.
Small wonder why.
The scholastic sports season was officially underway when training camps for the fall season got underway all across WNY bright and early Monday, August, 15.“I can’t wait,” Kenmore West senior Jahlel St. John said with a big smile. “It’s like waiting for Christmas. It’s the best day of the year. It’s my favorite day.”
Football, soccer, volleyball, tennis, cross country, field hockey and swim teams from every league began their journeys to what they all hope will lead them to a state championship. While the end goal of a championship is what every team strives for, each team has their own way of getting things started on the right foot as they try to make those title dreams come true.
The Kenmore West Blue Devils football team is coming off of one of it’s most memorable seasons ever as they not only won the Section Class AA North title, they ended the program’s 19 year drought by making it to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the sectional finals. Though the Blue Devils fell shy of their goal, falling to Orchard Park in the title game, they firmly believe last season was not a one shot deal. But rather the first step to consistently reaching the Stadium.
Establishing expectations off the field as well as on the field was also important for the Blue Devils who not only graduated 20 seniors, but also said goodbye to long time head coach Rich Harris who stepped down for personal reasons.
New head coach John Haynes, who has been with the program for 23 years, said Monday was about reminding players of their culture of character. Carrying yourself with class and understanding that when you put on the Blue Devils uniform you are representing your team, schools and town.
“That message has been drilled in them, obviously, for years,” Haynes said. “But again we’re reinforcing it in them this year with me taking over as the head coach. They know I’m not gonna tolerate it. And if they don’t get it straight now, what’s gonna happen is that could affect us in a game situation where they get a 15 yard penalty.”
The Tonawanda Warriors football team hit the field on Monday, too, under new head coach Joe Kelly. Like the Blue Devils, the Warriors have also embraced the fact that when they hit the field every Friday they aren’t just playing for each other. They are also carrying the hopes and dreams of everyone in the City of Tonawanda.
“We fight for every player who has ever worn that maroon helmet every person in the City of Tonawanda,” senior Ethan Shattuck said, “because even though they may not wear our pads and helmets, they are part of our family. And we will make them proud and give them everything we’ve got!”
The Nichols School Lady Vikings soccer team was hard at work on Peek Field on the Nichols campus at 8am.
Assistant coach Holly Kemp said that the coaching staff looks for several key aspects on day one. Everything from level of conditioning and quality of first touches on the soccer ball to selflessness and the desire to want to be there and work hard.
Emma Bianchi, who is one of five seniors on the Lady Vikings, said with so much youth in the program one of the most important goals is getting to know each other and building that trust and chemistry.
“I think, obviously athletically, it’s getting first touches on the ball and seeing how up to speed everyone is,” Bianchi said. “But I think the most important part, especially this year because so many seniors left us, and there’s so many incoming freshmen and sophomores that are playing this year so I think getting to know each other is a huge aspect this year. I think getting to know each other is important to having a good team. You have to have a good relationship. Good communication.”
Kemp said perhaps the most important mission of Day One is to reinforce that they are one. Nichols girls soccer is one program. There is no division or mind set that has girls believing the JV squad is less skilled or important than varsity.
“Everyone of our seniors have all played on JV at some point,” said Kemp.
Farther north, back on the gridiron, Matt Vermette ran his first official practice as the new head coach of the Lockport Lions varsity football team. Vermette said he didn’t think his new job title would require a drastic change in his approach.
“I fought the anxiety of having been the associate head coach, having been the running game coordinator and line coach for the past four or five years,” Vermette said, “it was really vital for me to have a successful first day and I couldn’t have asked for more. The kids responded.”
The key is he and the rest of the coaching staff continuing to show their supportive, positive sides and remind kids that all the coaches are there for them in any way.
Vermette noted that day one came with the expected hiccups of guys just getting back in the groove of the game. But that not one mistake was the result of lack of effort or character.
Saying how everyone gave 110%, Vermette added that guys showed accountability and character by admitting when they made a mistake and quickly absorbing and applying words from coaches and teammates to correct what went wrong.
Friends are reunited. Goals are set. Dreams have been drawn. And that was just Day One.
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