SACKVILLE, N.B. – Varsity athletes – those who play on teams representing Tantramar Regional High School – carry a higher Grade Point Average (GPA) than the general student population, according to principal Susan Lafford.
This matches closely with the situation at Mount Allison University and may be the combined result of a number of factors. With the extra time required for practices and games the young men and women are forced to set priorities as they must maintain passing grades in order to remain on a team.
And Lafford, who has served as principal for the past seven years, says pride in the school and the growing “community spirit” also contribute to the academic success. As a result, a higher percentage of varsity athletes go on to pursue post-secondary education at universities, colleges or trade schools.
Asked what she believes accounts for the athletic successes being enjoyed by her school, the principal says it, too, is a combination of talent, outstanding coaching and volunteerism.
For example, the football, girls’ soccer, men’s and girls’ hockey and both basketball teams are coached by volunteers from the community, although a good many members of the teaching staff also assist.
Meanwhile athletic director Ben Brown says fully one-third of the 430 students enrolled at Tantramar participate on at least one of the 10 varsity teams for which he is responsible.
Brown moved into the position in September, succeeding David Hicks who stepped down after serving for a couple of years. Brown is also an assistant coach of both football and boys’ hockey in addition to his extensive administrative duties.
Brown, an outstanding athlete, says he is responsible for finding and signing head coaches for the teams – allowing this person to form his or her own staff. He also must attend meetings of the New Brunswick Interscholastic Association (NBIAA) and ensure all their regulations are met.
“David (Hicks) left the program in good shape,” says Brown, “and we have had excellent cooperation from fellow teachers and the community at large.”
Fortunately, the teams are on sound financial footing, no longer meaning the coaches must go out with hat in hand to find the money to continue. He says the funding comes in a variety of ways and credits the parents of the athletes with doing much of the work. These parents hold fundraising events at each game and throughout the year, player fees also account for a fair amount, local sponsors, tournament profits and gate receipts from the games, especially from football where more than 2,000 fans attended the championship contest.
This means the coaches may concentrate on teaching and developing successful teams and during the past fall season two provincial championships came home. The football Titans topped Moncton to add their third banner, while Nev Garrity took the girls soccer team over the top for their first provincial crown in 21 years.
“Basically,” says Brown, “all of our teams are fundamentally sound.”
Brown says a close working relationship with Mount Allison, especially his dealings with Pierre Arsenault, has been beneficial, noting the Alumni Field is made available at a reasonable price.
The director of athletics likes to point out that the school may have gained a wide reputation for its commitment to elite athletics it is also doing a lot of great things – from its music programs to its Wetlands project to its in-house fundraising and craft sales. Each year the students stage a major stage production that plays before large audiences.
He says all coaches must pass a number of conditions prior to assuming their duties including a safety course as well as one conducted on their backgrounds. Thus nobody is allowed to tackle a coaching job until it is proven they are well prepared to do a proper job.
Over the school year the 10 teams compete in 250 games, which places much responsibility on both the school administration and the coaches who lead the athletes into action.
And Brown has only fine things to say about his coaching staffs – not only are they developing leaders of the future – but they have proven dedicated. And he singled out Garrity as a man who has given generously of his time for nearly 20 years. Also in this category is Scott O’Neal who has been with the team nearly as long and head coach for nine. And it’s noted that each team must have a staff advisor. In other words if the head coach is not a member of the school teaching staff then one must represent the school on that team.
A good deal of credit for the outstanding athletic success of Titan teams must go to the school administration led by Susan Lafford, whom Brown says has given “unwavering” support while, at the same time, demanding that academics must come first.
The school had a strong representation in swimming at the provincial meet and Brown says the two basketball teams are showing great promise, while the girl’s hockey team, back after a one-year absence, is an exciting one with no fewer than eight Grade 9 girls as members. The boys hockey team is off to an amazing start and will be hosting the provincial AA finals in February.
Volleyball and rugby are two other sports that will take place during the second semester and the local school has usually done well.
So, a visit to the 46-year-old high school has shown that the athletic programs are in good hands. The coaching throughout the program is well above average, funding is finally in place to ensure success from that end, the administration is strongly behind the program and parents and friends are coming through when needed.
Lafford and Brown believe success will continue because of the positive approach being used and that the small school’s spirit and pride will take the teams far. And at the same time the athletes are scoring well academically and moving on to spread the Titan name far and wide.
An amazing accomplishment and all of those responsible must be commended for all of the positive success. May it continue!