BY JEFF FALK
It’s been said that 80 percent of success is showing up. The underlying message is to get out, get involved, become a part of things. Participate!
It’s a message that the Annville-Cleona school district seems to not only understand, but to embrace.
Year in and year out, the Little Dutchmen’s participation in athletics and other extra-curricular activities are among the highest in Lebanon County and the Lancaster-Lebanon League. While this fall sports season was no exception, there certainly seems to be an even greater emphasis being placed on student-athletes participating.
“When you look back, time goes by so fast,” said Annville-Cleona athletic director Tommy Long. “You’ve got to cherish all the time you have. The more you can get yourself involved in, it’s going to create memories.
“When you look back on things like sports, you don’t remember final scores,” continued Long. “You look back at things like practices and the funny things that happened at them. That’s what a big part of school is. You have that social aspect. Maybe it’s just networking, but it helps students grow.”
During this recently completed fall scholastic sports season, an astounding 52-55 percent of Annville-Cleona High School’s student body was involved in athletics. Throw in the high school’s other extra-curricular activities marching band and the drama department’s musical and that participation rises to 62-65 percent.
As a point of comparison, a sports participation rate of 40 percent is considered good, depending upon location and circumstances.
“I think a couple of things stand out to me,” said Long. “We have an extremely supportive school district and it starts with the school board. They want to see students involved with activities outside of the school day. We’ve done a really good job of getting teachers who are also coaches. The kids see teachers around here, and doing the next part of their jobs. The faculty is engaged.
“I think you would find those numbers are in the high end,” continued Long. “If you get 50 percent participation, that’s great, but that’s not realistic at bigger schools. We need these kids to participate in different activities. And that goes back to teachers and coaches working well together.”
So not only is Annville-Cleona getting kids out for extra-curricular activities like sports, it’s getting student-athletes out for sports, time and time again. The only specializing going on at Annville-Cleona is its ability to foster two- and three-sport athletes.
“I think they’re up a little higher,” said Long of the Little Dutchmen’s participation rate in relation to past fall seasons. “What we’ve really seen is the numbers increase over the last couple of years. We’ve added some JV teams. In some sports, we have enough student-athletes to almost be able to field two varsity teams. All students in our district are aware of the opportunities. It’s been a great mix of students, teachers, parents and the community. It encourages them to take part in things.
“I think the community recognizes the value of these activities and they support them,” Long continued. “But I think it goes a step further. You see the coaches at these events. You see the school board members at these events. You see the principals at these events. It’s all these factors tying together. At small schools, we are all connected.”
And ultimately, the Little Dutchmen’s success in getting student-athletes to play translates to success on the field and on the scoreboard.
Because Annville-Cleona is the smallest public school district in Lebanon County, it is essential for the Little Dutchmen to produce as many participants as possible. But in another way, being so small is an advantage for the Little Dutchmen.
For the most part, Annville-Cleona enjoyed a wide array of success during the recently completed fall season. The Little Dutchmen qualified for district postseasons in football, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, cross country and field hockey, and two tennis players – Alicia Hitz and Emma Lerchen made it as far as the state tournament.
“Being a former athlete and coach myself, when I see the number of kids participating, it makes coming to work enjoyable,” said Long. “It’s another way for them to excel and display their talents. Those are the things that stay with kids the rest of their lives. And I know that because they did for me. I’m just excited to be a part of it.
“In here, we have a core group of teachers, and if they see a kid who’s not involved, they’re going to try and get in their ear,” Long added. “They aren’t competing against each other for kids. Our coaches and advisers understand the positive influence these activities can have in the class room. That’s what I’m really proud of: How our coaches interact with each other. They personify, ‘Be active. Be involved.'”
Ultimately, the Little Dutchmen’s superior participation originates from the community. Annville-Cleona is among the tightest, most closely-knit communities – if not ‘the’ closest – communities in Lebanon County.
“It’s extremely close,” said Long. “When you look at the school district, you don’t realize it until you step inside of it. When I first built a house in the school district, one of my concerns was running into soccer parents on Saturday mornings. Now I see it as a positive. The support you have from the parents and community is unbelievable. It’s like, ‘What do you need from us? What can we do to help?’ I’m very fortunate to have a community like that supporting me.”
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