Norwich’s varsity softball and baseball teams have lost way more games than they have won since I first covered their programs in 1996. In 13 seasons, Norwich varsity softball has never won more than five games over an 18-game season. For the boys’ team, this past season was just the second winning campaign this decade.
Those glaring and dubious statistics clearly are not acceptable by anyone’s standard, but I am starting to see evidence of change; change at the grass roots level that could mean a significant turn for the better within the next two to three years.
In today’s sports section, there is a softball article about the Norwich 14-and-under fast-pitch softball travel team. The team is off to a rousing, positive start, and is building off the successes of the spring sports season. It is the second straight year this age group has represented Norwich in the Oneonta Summer League.
No, this isn’t the highest level of play these young ladies can possibly face, but it is decent competition, and Norwich has a large collection of girls playing softball out of the regular season. In my dozen-plus years here covering sports, I cannot ever remember an entire Norwich team playing summer travel ball.
Steve Griffin, Norwich High School’s director of athletics and physical education has actively followed local Norwich sports for years, well before he was the AD. He noticed a pervasive culture of losing. And not just losing, getting trounced by the opposition. “That (losing) doesn’t sit well with me,” Griffin said. “I don’t like losing programs, and I don’t want kids to think that it is okay to have a losing season, and to get beat game after game.”
What is true in Norwich, though, is true everywhere: A program’s success is usually a direct correlation to the numbers of youths participating, active parental volunteerism, and quality coaching at the base levels.
“We’ve started to build Norwich’s programs with the youth,” Griffin said. “With the group of kids we have now at the modified age level, moms and dads got together back in tee ball and wanted to teach fundamentals, but also let the kids have fun. There was also a lot of instruction for this age group, and a lot of involved parents. They are supportive parents and not overbearing or over involved.”
As a parent and volunteer coach, I have seen the number of girls and boys on the fourth- through seventh-grade levels skyrocket. Not just that, skill levels are developing, and kids are remaining active in the sport.
Norwich has not one, but two Otsenango Pony League teams in the 13-15 age group with close to 30 kids playing baseball. In that age group this past school year, Griffin said Norwich fielded three modified girls’ softball teams totaling over 50 kids, and two modified baseball teams. Overall, Griffin said Norwich High School added 10 modified sports teams including swimming, volleyball, soccer, and the aforementioned baseball and softball teams.
As a sports reporter covering all of Chenango County’s high school teams, it is my job to stay objective and document game results fairly. As a Norwich High School graduate and the parent of three kids attending Norwich Schools, I have a not-so-secret interest in seeing the Tornado’s sports programs do especially well. Based on progress made the past 12 months, I expect to write up many more victories than defeats within the next two years.