Watkins sports planning summer despite uncertain future

Watkins sports planning summer despite uncertain future

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Watkins sports planning summer despite uncertain future

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Watkins Memorial football coach Jeff Severino, right, runs Cole Nixon through a secondary drill during the Warriors’ midnight practice this past August. Severino said the Warriors are operating as usual in advance of the upcoming vote on the critical renewal levy.

Watkins Memorial football coach Jeff Severino, right, runs Cole Nixon through a secondary drill during the Warriors’ midnight practice this past August. Severino said the Warriors are operating as usual in advance of the upcoming vote on the critical renewal levy.

The Watkins Memorial football program is operating its business as usual.

Coach Jeff Severino has little else he can do. Severino has seen Watkins face and pass critical levies in 2005 and 2010. He certainly is not taking it for granted, but he sees no sense in spending every moment worrying about what could be ahead.

Southwest Licking Local Schools voters will make the decision on the district’s $4.5 million emergency operating levy renewal on Tuesday. If not passed, the board of education already has announced sports will be eliminated.

“I don’t know if it’s hit the kids yet about how important the levy vote,” said Severino, who has scheduled his team’s summer camp days and passing scrimmages. The Warriors also have any players not participating in a spring sport in the weight room several times a week.

“We don’t harp on it in the weight room. We can only control so much.”

The community is holding a “March for the Kids” and rally Thursday. It will begin at 5:45 p.m. with a walk from the Pataskala Pool to the high school. The night will continue with a rally at the stadium at 7 p.m., and the Licking County community is encouraged to come and show its support.

The Watkins football program has taken a massive jump in the win-loss column the past two seasons since joining the Licking County League. They improved from two wins in the 2012 season to five a season later and eight this past fall, including the program’s second playoff appearance.

With a large group of seniors-to-be returning, the Warriors could have an LCL title and postseason success in their future.

“I am sure they talk about it outside of the coaches’ earshot,” Severino said. “I am not one to talk negative, so they know not to bring too much of that stuff up in front of me. I tell the kids that ‘you have no control over it. You can only control how you prepare yourself for next season.'”

Ron Hutcheson is the athletic supervisor for Grove City High School. He temporarily lost his job in 2009 when Southwestern City Schools failed to pass multiple levies. The district’s four high schools did not have sports for fall 2009 until a levy was passed in November of that year.

Grove City’s football program made the playoffs in the 2008 season, but it only has had one winning season since the program was restored for the 2010 season. Hutcheson said that fall was difficult on the entire school’s psyche.

“Losing all of the sports for that season just devastated the school,” Hutcheson said. “The momentum that you have going into a school year, sports just adds to that. From that standpoint, it just kind of destroyed the excitement of being in school. I don’t think it resulted in a lot of trouble or kids went down a terrible path, but it wasn’t just a very good environment in the school at that time.”

A loss of a season could be devastating to smaller sports at Watkins. The volleyball program won its first postseason match since 2002 this past fall, the girls basketball program had its best season in a decade and the Watkins softball program is making similar strides this spring.

Girls basketball coach Jayme Gates credits much of the success of her program to many of the people working behind the scenes. Youth teams recently have won championships in local travel leagues, and the seventh-grade team finished unbeaten and won the LCL this past winter.

“So many people have worked so hard to get the program where it’s at,” Gates said. “We are on the verge of one of our best seasons next year with high numbers of girls involved and coming off the most wins in a while last year. The excitement is there, and we are right where we need to be.”

While not all of Watkins’ athletes will be competing in college, Gates noted how a loss of athletics could affect everyone in future endeavors. She mentioned athletics being a critical part in making for a “well-rounded” student.

“This is all part of their high school career along with the friendships and memories they will create,” Gates said.

Severino said he has discussed the possibilities with his seniors-to-be should the levy fail. The state’s principals are voting in May on a proposal to allow athletes to transfer schools without penalty should sports be eliminated at their home school. It is a provision that was eliminated when the OHSAA passed its most recent change to the bylaws regarding transfers.

Severino obviously hopes this can all be put behind them a week from now.

“The kids are very positive about it,” Severino said. “They usually have a good pulse of the community.”

ksnyder@gannett.com

740-328-8556

Twitter: @newarkurt

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