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NHIAA approves varsity co-op teams


September 16, 2009
The NHIAA announced last week that cooperative sports teams between Stratford and Groveton High Schools would be allowed for the upcoming seasons. Several petitions to allow cooperative varsity and junior varsity level sports teams between the Northumberland School District and the Stratford School District, were approved by the Classification Committee of the NHIAA, the governing body for all high-school level athletics in New Hampshire. Two other petitions that had been filed were previously denied by the NHIAA.

In March of this year, it became clear to Stratford Principal, Dan Shallow, that the school was faced with not having enough kids to field a boy's varsity baseball team. He petitioned the NHIAA to allow the Stratford varsity boys baseball players to join one of the other surrounding teams' rosters. The NHIAA denied the request because their by-laws state that there is a one-year waiting period, following the filing of a petition request, before it can be approved. He then filed another petition asking for a by-law change or exemption that would allow the NHIAA to render a decision on a varsity level sports co-op between Stratford and Groveton with less than the one-year wait. This was also rejected. NHIAA told the schools that they would require a separate petition be filed for each individual sport. The new petitions were submitted and approved for 2009-2010 Basketball, 2010 Baseball, 2010 Softball, and 2010 Soccer. Since junior high athletics are not governed by the NHIAA, Stratford has opted to maintain those sports within the Stratford School District.

Stratford's Athletic Director, Kevin James, has also been instrumental in finally getting the petitions approved. Mr. James had expressed concerns to the principal for the past couple of years that, with dropping enrollment numbers, the school, as well as the town residents may be faced with this decision.

Mr. Shallow said, "We are all disappointed to lose our school's varsity sports teams but we are also grateful that the petition was granted, because, two or three years from now, we will be in a much better position to keep our kids involved in sports than if we hadn't done this." The NHIAA will re-evaluate the petitions after two years. Since the NHIAA rules do not govern the junior-high level sports teams, the existing junior-high sports, as well as the cross-country programs will remain at the Stratford School.

SAU #58 Administrative Coordinator, and former Groveton varsity sports coach, Fred Bailey, said that "under the terms of the petitions, high school athletes from Stratford will be allowed to try-out for the Groveton sports programs. If they make the team, there will be a yet-to-be-determined fee for their participation on the team". This fee will be negotiated by and voted on by the school boards. The Stratford athletes will be responsible for their own transportation to and from all practices but they will be picked up by bus to transport them to their games.

Groveton Principal, Pierre Couture, said, "the NHIAA by-laws allow for co-operative sports teams to be formed. It allows two or more school districts to pool their resources and athletes, when necessary, to allow the formation of a team that may not be possible without a co-op opportunity." He said "the enrollment in Groveton had dropped nearly 20% the year the mill closed, but has since stabilized at this lower level. Athlete participation in some sports has also declined proportionately. This co-op plan will not only allow the Stratford athletes a chance to be on a team but it will also aid in Groveton's ability to carry a full roster in most sports. The addition of the Stratford players will not have any effect on Groveton's 'S' status within NHIAA guidelines. We are still one of the smallest schools in Class S." Groveton's current enrollment stands at just under 160 students in grades 9-12. Stratford's enrollment is 34 within the same grade levels.

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