Norwich’s varsity softball and baseball teams have lost way more games than they have won since I first covered their programs in 1996. In 13 seasons, Norwich varsity softball has never won more than five games over an 18-game season. For the boys, this past season was just the second winning campaign this decade.
Those glaring and dubious statistics clearly are not acceptable by anyone’s standard, but I am starting to see evidence of change; change at the grass roots level that could mean a significant turn for the better within the next two to three years.
In Friday’s sports section, there is a softball article about the Norwich 14-and-under fast-pitch softball travel team. The team is off to a rousing, positive start, and is building off the successes of the spring sports season. It is the second straight year this age group has represented Norwich in the Oneonta Summer League.
No, this isn’t the highest level of play these young girls can possibly face, but it is decent competition, and Norwich has a large collection of girls playing softball out of the season. In my dozen-plus years here covering sports, I cannot ever remember an entire Norwich team playing summer travel ball.
Steve Griffin, Norwich High School’s director of athletics and physical education has actively followed local Norwich sports for years, well before he was the AD. He noticed a pervasive culture of losing. And not just losing, getting trounced by the opposition. “That (losing) doesn’t sit well with me,” Griffin said. “I don’t like losing programs, and I don’t want kids to think that it is okay to have a losing season, and to get beat game after game.”
What is true in Norwich, though, is true everywhere: A program’s success is usually a direct correlation to the numbers of youths participating, active parental volunteerism, and quality coaching at the base levels.
*The rest of Patrick Newell’s column appears in the Friday, June 27 edition of The Evening Sun.