Headmaster’s Thoughts – November 2007

A surprise happened this Field Day: for the first time in a long while, the students beat the faculty at softball. Now let me immediately make the excuse that the students were represented by the boys’ varsity team, and the faculty team (co-ed as it was) was missing Kim Logana and Russell Josephs who were with the boys’ varsity soccer team beating another league school by the handsome score of 7 to 1. Kim was an All-American softball player and holds the NCAA record for the most triples. You can guess that we really missed her, and many of us feel that we would have won with her power hitting and Russell’s all around strong play. Yes, the grapes are sour indeed!

I am in a particularly competitive mood today (the day I am writing this) because we won all three of the games our students played against other schools. The varsity soccer team (it is co-ed) won its game today and is still undefeated. I am afraid I did not watch that game because I was watching (in our gym) two back-to-back volleyball games. They were played with such different coaching philosophies that I am torn as to which was the better modality.

The girls’ varsity team beat a close rival who had beaten us away so this was an important match. The girls’ team is coached by Barbara Hughes, our Athletic Director, and Chris Durnford, our Principal.  They are competitors and they play to win. These two coaches play the best six girls until it is clear that we have secured the victory, at which point they rotate in the bench of fourteen.

The middle school girls’ volleyball team is coached by Johanna Burger, a science teacher at York. She runs the show with her “ladies” in a totally different way. She has a squad of twenty 7th and 8th graders and she rotates them so that every girl plays a similar number of minutes. Now the teams that we play in the Middle School league are usually small (seven or eight girls), so the same six of their girls pretty well play all the time. Johanna rotates ruthlessly. Miraculously, considering that she does not play the best of the players for a preponderance of the time, the team has won most of its games (including today’s against a team of seven girls). So successful are they that they will probably be in the League tournament playoffs. It will be interesting to see what Johanna does then: does she play her best players to win or rotate the girls as she now does?

Both methods of coaching have their value. I am proud of the fact that we turn out teams that are larger than those of schools which have student bodies that are multiples of ours, and I am in awe that Johanna wins her games while methodically rotating her girls. As you can see by my (fake) complaint that the boys beat the faculty at softball, I have revealed my rather competitive nature. Clearly, I would take the Varsity approach of Barbara and Chris. But there is a lot to be said for having every girl play equally, and it certainly seems a crowd pleaser for the parents of the girls on the team. Perhaps, both…

Thank goodness I do not coach. I personally am against heads of schools as coaches. I find they tend to scream too much.

P.S. Thank you to those of you who e-mailed me that York Prep was the front photo on the new Princeton Review book “Best New York City Private and Selective High Schools.”

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org

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