Numbers Games


Sports connect the world. It is a common tie we all share. The rush of competition. The wave of adrenaline. The need to win. For most, sports is used as an outlet to release any stress or tension. It is a safe spot. Yet, that does not stay true for all ages. This is why we see a dramatic decrease in the number of high school sport participants. Derry Area High School is fortunate to be able to provide students with fifteen total sport options throughout the year, but is this too many for the number of athletes we actually have?

Participation in sports is a staple for an elementary school student. Whether it be soccer, teeball, or ballet, sports dominate the realm of after school activity.

The Derry Area School District is no exception.

In the Derry youth football program we have 70 football players along with 63 cheerleaders. That makes for a total of 133 children participating in the youth program out of a total of 904 Grandview students across five grades. As they grow, they move onto sports in middle school. The middle school has 439 kids enrolled, and just between two grades, the middle school football team is able to support 26 players. Ideally these numbers should carry over to the high school level as well. The funnel system is there and in place, yet the numbers do not show it. Why the sudden drop off? Where do the athletes go between middle school and high school?

The resources are there for the athletes, but the number of kids taking advantage of them is not there.

With 604 kids enrolled in Derry’s high school, currently in the fall sports we see registration numbers seem very reasonable with 33 football players, 36 volleyball players, 10 tennis players, 17 cross country runners, 29 cheerleaders, and 19 golfers. The only issue is that due to the small number of kids enrolled at Derry, compared to the number of sports Derry offers, it prompts kids to participate in multiple sports at one time. When this multisport athlete gets injured, it then leads to a decline in numbers in not one sport, but two. Because of this we see a drop of 33 football players to 17 participants at practice, and a drop from 29 cheerleaders to 14. As this explains the inner drop, what happened to the number of kids that should register?

Derry Athletic Director Brett Miller believes there are a number of reasons we see a decline in high school sport athletes. The main reason impacting Derry Area especially would be specialization in sports. Kids are finding what makes them most happy or what sport they are best at and are sticking to it. Instead of branching out and getting their feet wet in multiple sports, kids are finding the one sport that is “theirs” and work only with that sport. At Derry this is very damaging to our athlete programs due to the fact we need students to be playing many different sports to maintain numbers on the teams.

This is such a standard that cross country coach Greg Rager says, “ I have to work around to make sure they get enough training in to run their races well, but still leave them time to practice their other sport.”

The resources are there for the athletes, but the number of kids taking advantage of them is not there.

Along with sports specialization we also see the number of participants in travel, AAU, and all-star leagues grow. Athletes who wish to put all their time and effort into one sport wish to do it at a higher level and are joining outside of school programs. This is taking away many talented athletes from the high school playing field as they wish to spend all their time focusing on their more competitive teams.

Enrollment numbers contribute largely to the size of our athletic programs. Derry offers a large variety of programs for students to participate in, yet this could lead to the downfall of the athletic program due to the fact that Derry does not have enough kids enrolled for all these sports. By offering sports that other schools our size do not offer, this sets the teams up for failure having to compete against larger schools with more of a pool of kids to pick from for their teams.

This is a stigma that has somewhat recently been placed on the community that many would shy away from admitting is even there.

Junior golfer Hunter Jurica has expressed how even he has noticed the uneven playing field while acknowledging that even the golf team can not properly move classes due to the size of the school. It is projected that over the course of the next seven to ten years, if enrollment numbers continue to decline, Derry Area could see some of their beloved sports be eliminated. This would lead to having to funnel the kids into the sports that are believed to be most popular that get to stay in the school’s program. Is this fair? Is it fair to take away sports that kids are passionate about and force them to play sports that the crowd is passionate about?

Athletes believe it is time for change. Some students like senior football player Brayden Mickinac believe that a change in the style of coaching at Derry would improve participation in sports, while others such as senior volleyball and basketball player Tiana Moracco believes kids need to realize the long lasting relationships through sports. Seniors like football player Noah Cymmerman, tennis player Emily Main, and volleyball player Makenzie Eades all believe that in order to gain more athletes, more advertisement of the sports and their programs needs to be spread throughout the school. Main offered the idea of having field days again at the end of the year in order to give students a taste of all the options available to them.

Because sports are so prominent in our society, people tend to make inferences about communities based on sports. You remember a school if their teams really stand out. Whether it be in a positive way or a negative way, school athletics make your school memorable and keep the school’s name circulating through surrounding communities. All schools strive to have their name be thought of in a positive light and want their community members to be passionate about their sports, yet Derry is not seen in that light.

​Derry is not known for their outstanding athletic programs or their abundance of kids coming out for sports. This is a stigma that has somewhat recently been placed on the community that many would shy away from admitting is even there. For Derry Area athletes, this lights a fire within them. It makes them want to erase those stereotypes and change the view placed on them. They feel strongly about making change and being able to see their hard work reflect on Derry Area School District in a positive light.

“It makes you want to work harder to make the community recognize our work,” Noah Cymmerman says. “It was so cool being at Heinz Field. People aren’t packing the stands like they used to. I just want it to be that way again.”