What Makes for a Strong High School Sports Program?

Jonathan Schifman, Sports Editor

School sports have rosters that constantly vary from year to year. Each team, however, has its own assorted special years, when chemistry, talent level, and commitment all reach an unforeseen plateau. This past season the Girls’ Varsity Soccer team found this perfect mix, winning its first conference title in 14 years. As one of the smaller districts in Nassau County, Wantagh has lower student populations than those of surrounding schools such as Mepham and Farmingdale. This hypothetically creates a smaller crop of athletic talent; however, Wantagh’s sports have always been in the race, have always competed, and have always managed to maintain the proper talent levels to succeed.
There are rumors that, with its vast number of sports, Wantagh’s athletic talent quickly depletes. For example, it has been said that soccer has lost athletes to volleyball (which has prevented the team from winning more conference titles). However, according to former Girls’ Soccer coach Mr. Svolos, “The volleyball program is a very strong program, but the good thing is that a lot of girls play soccer from an early age. We’ve always had a strong background of kids playing. The success this year has more to do with the commitment than in past years. We play teams based on ability, not population, so we usually play better schools.”
After leading the team to one of its brightest seasons, current coach Mr. Polo agreed that commitment had been the most significant problem. In reference to the past 14 years, he said, “There wasn’t a commitment to the program that it deserved,” whereas this past season did have “a commitment to the program.”
It’s not to say that there was never a commitment to Girls’ Varsity Soccer. As one of the better schools in the county, Wantagh had often finished as high as second place between 1998 and 2012. This past season, however, perhaps solidified a new, dominant presence.
When asked what he ultimately wants to accomplish as a coach, Polo said, “I want this program to improve each year.”
And that’s being achieved.