The Groton Central School District plans to hold week-long athletic programming this summer for students in grades four through eight for sports such as football, soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball.

Of course, the goal for these programs is to peak childrens’ interest in one or more of the sports in hopes that they decide to participate on one of the school’s teams in order to maintain a consistent flow of kids in each sport.

However, with Groton’s athletic programs – mainly football – the district is hoping to sustain them at the moment as the number of students participating in the sports mentioned above have dwindled.?

At a board of education meeting on June 7, Superintendent Margo Martin said the district does not have the numbers to field an 11-man football team. This past year, there were only three students on the school’s modified football team, which features students in seventh, eighth and ninth grade. The varsity team had 28 students on its roster, a number that will decrease following the graduation of its senior players, though.

“Numbers are very much in jeopardy,” Martin said. “So, programmatically it’s similar to when we went to a modified ‘A’ program and a varsity program; we eliminated the JV level because we couldn’t support [it]. Obviously, if we get participation back, we would then look to go back to a full-slated team. Year to year we have to look at this and say, ‘What are our numbers and what are we going to do for our sports programs?’”

One option that is seriously being considered is going from an 11-man football team to an eight-man team. The distinction between the two forms is that in eight-man football teams have two fewer offensive lineman and one fewer skill position player (i.e. running back or wide receiver) on offense, and one fewer defensive back, one fewer linebacker and one fewer defensive lineman on defense. (These could change depending on the formations used by a team.) Eight-man football requires only five players on the line of scrimmage instead of seven when it comes to offensive formations.?

Board member Leon Brockway said making the switch would probably be the right decision.

“It’s a faster, [more fun] game to watch sometimes,” Brockway said. “You might even get more high-scoring games because you just have a more wide open field so to speak.”

Brockway did add that if the district were to make such a switch could potentially impact its plans for a future capital project that would revamp Ross Field.

“Some of the reasons it kind of can tie into other things, we’re right dead in the middle of figuring out what we want to do with the athletic facility down there,” he said. “I think New York specifically hasn’t moved the size of the football field, but traditional eight-man is actually a small field. It can be a smaller field.”

One potential benefit of going to an eight-man style of play would be Groton would not have to travel far to play against other teams as several IAC schools are currently running eight-man squads. If Groton’s football program moves to eight-man, it would be the 10th team in Section IV to make the change. Other Section IV schools that run eight-man football programs are Dryden, Lansing, Trumansburg, Newfield, Thomas A. Edison, Greene, Moravia, Elmira-Notre Dame, Oxford Academy/Gilbertsville-Mt. Upton and Unadilla Valley.

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