School gets OK for ‘dual sports’ program

It took three years of lobbying for Shelter Island School Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio. But persistence paid off this year as Mr. Gulluscio gained state approval for a pilot program that will allow districts with 499 or fewer 9th through 12th grade students to play two sports.

The aim is to expand the ability of small school districts to continue to offer multiple sports programs.

What it means is that starting this winter, students in those grades who are willing to put in the time and energy to show up for practices and games, as well as maintain good grades, will be allowed to play two sports.

Prior to the pilot project, students were limited to a single sport in a semester, which sometimes resulted in not having enough students to keep some sports programs alive, Mr. Gulluscio said.

The dual sports program isn’t for everyone, and it will take not only the interest of students to participate, but approval from parents, coaches and Mr. Gulluscio.

About a dozen students and a few parents showed up at the school last week to hear details. A couple of students have already indicated interest, but parents still have to file paperwork to be reviewed by the coaches and Mr. Gulluscio.

In the winter semester, students can sign up for any two of three sports — indoor track, sideline cheering and basketball. But in the fall semesters, students can take volleyball and either golf or cross country.

The only reason the choice is a bit wider in the winter semester is that sideline cheering is not a competitive sport, Mr. Gulluscio said. There was one season when there were too few students to have a sideline cheering squad, he noted, emphasizing the value of the dual sports program to keeping an activity on the roster.

“I’m excited to get the program started,” he said.

The commitment a student makes to the program means not just joining two teams for games, but for practice sessions as well. Each student accepted into the program must choose one sport as his or her primary activity so that there can be no conflicts, since if there are scheduling issues, the primary sport will take precedence.

“It is quite a commitment,” Mr. Gulluscio said. It will be “a grind” for three months straight for a student to attend classes and practices as well as games while maintaining their academic averages, he said.

“Some will try and it will work out, and for some, it won’t,” he said. But at the end of the pilot program, he intends to apply to the state’s Section XI Policy Committee hoping the program will have proved viable enough to be granted ongoing status.

He expects to know by Nov. 11 how many students have pursued the opportunity for next semester.

“If it helps one kid or one team, it’s worth it,” Mr. Gulluscio said.