By Jordan J. Michael
The Enterprise –– Jordan J. Michael
Hungry for hoops: Guilderland’s varsity teams, like boys’ basketball, lay their foundation in freshman sports. FOGA supports those freshman sports so that players like junior Marc DuMoulin, right, shown here in a game against Ballston Spa last week, can develop their skills.GUILDERLAND –– A group that was forged in the heat of budget cuts –– to preserve freshman sports at Guilderland High School –– is in the process of becoming a tempered, permanent not-for-profit institution.
Emilio Genzano, a former Guilderland School Board member who spearheaded Friends of Guilderland Athletics back in the spring of 2010, said this week that FOGA has a communal vision for giving children an athletic opportunity. “Becoming a not-for-profit makes us an entity, and gives us the ability to have credibility,” he said. “FOGA is just trying to do its part because we hold this vision close to our hearts.”
Hundreds of Guilderland sports boosters turned out at a school board meeting in the spring of 2010 to protest budget cuts to freshman and repeat sports. FOGA was created shortly thereafter, and raised $60,000 from the community to reinstate all the cut sports.
Since then, the Guilderland community has more or less embraced FOGA and its mission.
“Guilderland is a great community,” Genzano said this week. “We’ve been lucky.”
For the 2012-13 school year, half of the budget for freshman sports has been restored. The other half, which is $21,350, is being raised by FOGA and the booster clubs. FOGA’s current goal is $10,675, and $7,150 has been raised so far.
Genzano told The Enterprise that FOGA will be “pretty aggressive” over the next 30 to 60 days as budget season starts again. The deadline for providing funds for softball and baseball is in March.
“There’s always changes in funding, so our work is important and necessary,” said Genzano. “When I was on the board, I always put academics first, but athletics came after that. We’re trying to empower the children.”
FOGA has several fund-raising activities, and will most likely create more.
The Knodler brothers –– Guilderland students Marcus and Brian –– raise money with their own Lake George Challenge every Memorial Day weekend. Marcus is a junior and Brian is a freshman. Both wrestle and play lacrosse and football.
The Knodlers raised $2,000 for FOGA last May with their self-styled triathlon.
Last fall, FOGA received $750 from the Three Chairs for Guilderland event put on by the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce. Also, the Guilderland Letterman Foundation hosts an annual golf tournament, and FOGA raised $4,400 in sponsorships for the event in 2012.
In the summer of 2011, Genzano was asked if fund-raising for freshman sports would be an annual task for FOGA, and he said, “It’s not a permanent thing. I think it’s a necessary evil to maintain what we have.”
More recently, though, he said, referring not just to the economy but to the situation schools are in with unfunded mandates and cuts in aid, “I see it getting worse. Looking at the numbers, there’s not going to be an increase in aid. I’ve been on the board and I know what they’re up against. Some schools are doing away with freshman sports. It depends on the vision of the community…I won’t tire out till it’s done.”
Although budgeting for freshman sports is now secured at 50 percent, it could go up or down. There is no way of knowing the future of a still weak economy.
“You hope for the best, but the worst might be around the corner,” Genzano said this week. “Sports are an extracurricular activity, so they can be cut quickly. This is why we need the money available.”
Some Suburban Council schools –– Columbia and Averill Park –– cut freshman teams in the past. Roughly 200 to 250 students play freshman sports at Guilderland. If freshman sports were cut, then athletic development would suffer.
“It’s a pivotal level,” said Genzano of freshman sports. Freshman is the next step up from youth sports. “A lot of kids want sports to occupy their time,” he said. “It’s a way for some kids to find themselves.”
What if Guilderland decided to cut freshman sports entirely? Would FOGA understand?
“It’s not a matter of being acceptable or not,” Genzano said. “We’re here for the kids, and we do what we do. In some cases, you don’t have a choice.”
FOGA always strives to do more because the organization wouldn’t exist if it didn’t try or make sacrifices, he said.
“I think people are getting more and more involved,” Genzano said of FOGA catching on in the community. “Everyone tries to see if it’s real; the more real, the better.”
Becoming a not-for-profit will equal more commitment for FOGA, he said.
What is the current state of Guilderland athletics?
“I think it’s pretty stable,” said Genzano. “We’re in a good place because there’s a lot of awareness.”