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Northfield and Williamstown Answering Questions Ahead of Winter Sports Season

Paine Mountain School District Athletic Director pulling double duty
Published: Nov. 22, 2020 at 10:43 AM EST
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NORTHFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - For the past few years, TJ Powers has had to pull double duty.

“Well I was the athletic director (at Northfield), and then when the act 46 merger took place with Williamstown, both schools had a part time athletic director so I became the full-time athletic director for both schools,” Powers said.

The newly dubbed Paine Mountain School district athletic director says it took some time for Northfield and Williamstown to get used to the idea of sharing an AD.

“I think there’s always that ‘Is one schools getting favored over the other,’” he said. “That’s a challenge we face, there have been some growing pains with it but I think people are growing used to the idea, and it’s a good opportunity for the kids to get to know each other and build friendships. And that’s what we’re here for.”

The Marauders and Blue Devils already shared many of their teams in recent years due to declining enrollment and participation at both schools. The district merger has made the discussion over joint versus individual teams a little less complicated.

“A lot of our sports have just combined because of the lack of numbers,” Powers said. “So I think we’re always looking at that to see if more sports can be combined or if they can go back to individual schools. It’s always on the table.”

But the combination of two athletic departments has not streamlined things this year. Northfield and Williamstown are just two of the VPA affiliated schools dealing with life in the age of COVID-19, and it has added complications for everyone.

“What’s happened with that is coaches going through trainings for protocols and knowing what they have to do when kids aren’t in school getting tested on a daily basis,” Powers said. “They might show up to practice and need to do a screening on their own. So it’s just making sure everybody is following those safety rules from transportation all the way to coaches and all the way up to the school day and the administration.”

As we head into the Winter sports season, Powers has some additional problems to worry about, starting with facilities. The Northfield boys and girls hockey teams have traditionally played their home games at Kreitzberg Arena on the Norwich University campus. That’s not going to happen this year with colleges not allowing outside visitors. Powers doesn’t know for sure where the Marauders will play this year, but their proximity to other rinks, and the state’s ban on recreational sports outside school control, has him confident they’ll get it sorted out.

“We’ve talked with the Montpelier rink and the Barre rink, and even the Waterbury rink’s been on the phone,” Powers said. “It all comes down to who can fit people where and what other league’s are going on right now. And obviously with youth sports and rec leagues not taking place right now, there’s a lot of ice time to be had.”

Another major change will come from the ban on fans. Particularly in the case of the historically dominant Williamstown boys hoops team, not being able to bring people in for games is tough for a couple reasons.

“There’s disappointment,” Powers admitted. “You’ve got a lot of people who have watched their kids play basketball for a long time, especially some of these seniors in high school whose parents want to see them play their senior year. Basketball and hockey are our biggest moneymakers for our athletic program. It’ll definitely affect us.”

Like many other schools, Powers says they’re looking into online video streaming services as a way to give the community access and recoup some of that money. But given the situation with COVID case counts rising all over, he’s gonna be happy just to have a season.

“I’m relieved and stressed at the same time,” he said. ”That means redoing schedules and looking at travel, how that’s going to affect where we go to play games and how far we can go. So yeah it’s a little relieved to know that we’re gonna have something, but there’s a lot of other things to look into as well.”

As of now practices are slated to begin November 30th and games can begin January 11th

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