Terry Chamberlain was not too happy at the beginning of basketball season.
The Argyle girls basketball coach took a look at the number of players he had available, and determined it was not enough to support three levels — varsity, junior varsity and modified. The Scots — the defending Section II champs in Class D — made the decision to not field a JV squad this season.
“In Argyle, of all places, where we’re a basketball school,” Chamberlain said. “I never would’ve guessed it, never projected it. But the show goes on.”
That scene was repeated at Fort Ann and Hadley-Luzerne this season, making an unprecedented three Adirondack League girls basketball programs with no JV squad.
“We weren’t real happy to come to the decision ourselves,” Chamberlain said. “But the numbers weren’t there. I kept 12 on varsity and the modified has 11, so it’s not like we’re overly stocked on either team. We pretty much kept everyone.”
Fort Ann has similar numbers — 11 on varsity, 12 on modified — and athletic director Jason Humiston said it would be difficult to break them into three teams, because seven or eight players do not make for a deep bench in case of injuries or illness.
“We want to put kids in a position to succeed, not fail, and we acted in the best interest of our program top to bottom,” Humiston said. “Confidence is a big part — if they get beat down, they’re not going to come back.”
Humiston said fellow league members Hartford and Fort Edward also had low JV numbers, but went ahead with their seasons.
“I don’t think we’ve had more than one school go without a JV team for a season, and it’s a different team every year,” said Scott Smith, Warrensburg’s head coach, AD and the league’s representative to Section II. “Three (missing JV) teams is new.”
Shrinking enrollments, low participation and sport specialization have all been blamed for the low turnouts.
“We’re having issues with certain classes not playing sports,” said Humiston, whose daughter is an eighth-grader on the modified at Argyle. “Some have only two or three kids playing sports, others have eight or 10. It ebbs and flows.”
“It’s not even a small-school issue — I think Johnstown and Fonda, which are bigger schools, don’t have JV teams this year,” Smith said. “It’s a little perplexing. It’s hard to believe some of those (larger) schools can’t find seven or eight kids who want to play.”
“We’ve been running into small classes and girls just not participating,” Hadley-Luzerne athletic director Gary Wilson said. “Our phys ed teachers have put a focus on intramurals to get kids interested in playing. You can see the numbers growing of kids coming to the gym after school, but it will take time.”
A year ago, Hadley-Luzerne tried to make a go of it, despite having only eight players on the JV.
“With injuries and all we didn’t make it to Christmas,” Wilson said. “I had to spend a morning on the phone calling all of the Adirondack League schools to let them know. So this year, I tried to avoid doing it last-minute, so we made the call about the same time Fort Ann and Argyle did it, after the first day or two of tryouts.”
The missing JV teams have resulted in what Smith called “creative scheduling” for the rest of the Adirondack League.
“We were able to match up with some Wasaren League teams because Waterford and Berlin didn’t have JV teams,” Smith said. “We picked up Saratoga Catholic twice for our JV.”
For the programs lacking a JV this season, they hold out hope that this is a one-year problem.
“We definitely hope it’s not a trend,” Smith said.
“This is the first time we haven’t had a JV,” Chamberlain said. “We had four girls who would’ve been on JV this year move out of the district. This year was unusual — usually we have to make cuts on varsity and JV. We’ll have to see what next year brings.”
Hadley-Luzerne has opted to field two modified teams, split between seventh- and eighth-graders.
“The varsity coach took a handful of freshmen, so it came out to nine on each (modified) team,” Wilson said. “The theory is to get them as many floor minutes as possible, which on modified, seven-minute quarters go quick. So it’s good for the program and the parents are happy.”
“Our modified team is doing well,” Chamberlain said. “It’s not all a loss, but I just wish we had more kids playing.”