Advocate programs teetering on brink of extinction

Staff ~ The Amherst Citizen
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Stuent athletes will miss out on big part of personal growth with possible demise

When Kyle Morris sprained his ankle a few weeks ago, the reality that is the Advocate District High School boys basketball program came to the forefront.

Advocate programs teetering on brink of extinction

ADVOCATE When Kyle Morris sprained his ankle a few weeks ago, the reality that is the Advocate District High School boys basketball program came to the forefront.

With only five players on the roster, the school, which houses children in Primary to 12, was unable to fulfill its commitments and was forced to cancel several NSSAF District IV contests.

As the smallest school in the federation, Advocates sports programs are in jeopardy. Currently 68 students are registered in the school and only two of those will graduate this June.

I dont know if any of the Division IV schools will survive, Lindsay McCully, coach of the Coyotes said.

I only lose one player from this team but when I look at the school, there are no students entering Grade 7. With no students there cant be a program, he added.

The Coyotes are riding high this week following a thrilling come from behind victory over arch-rival Parrsboro Warriors in the Cumberland District playoffs on Tuesday.

The victory gives Advocate the right to host the NSSAF Northumberland Regional tournament Feb. 16 to 17.

The girls program, coached by Pat Spicer is in a similar predicament. This years team fielded just seven players and struggled on many nights with the competition in the Cumberland District.

In total, Advocates basketball program consists of 14 players; this is an entire roster for just one team at larger schools that boast both junior and senior teams.

McCully says the potential loss of the programs would be huge for a community that supports all school programs, athletic or otherwise.

With no hockey in the community, the youth turn to other venues such as soccer, basketball and badminton.

Whoever shows up plays and this has proven to be a recipe that has worked for tiny Advocate. Their boys squads have been competitive in both sports and have attended provincials on many occasions in the past two decades.

Likewise, the girls program has excelled and has several NSSAF championship banners for their efforts.

The school has fielded track and field athletes as well, no more prominent than the Ross sisters who have accounted for many high place finishes over the past seven years.

"We have 100 per cent support of the community. If we need anything, drives, equipment, uniforms, we go out and fund raise and we get it, McCully said.

I know the plug will never be pulled on the program because the school and the community will support it. But the fact is we just dont have the numbers.

Tough economic times and the lack of jobs in the area see many families move to larger centres. Because of this, children dont get to grow up along the Advocate coast.

Add to this the volunteers who put in their time coaching who must also out-migrate to find sustainable employment and the picture gets clearer.

Running programs of this nature are a key component to the formative years of a students life as it allows them to interact with students in larger centres and gives them additional knowledge of how life is on a broad spectrum. The loss of athletic programs will hinder this growth.

McCully said one possible solution bantered about is the amalgamation of sports programs with River Hebert District High School, another small high school in the region.

Liability issues have stalled this process to date because of the 45 minute commute over treacherous roads, but he says talks are ongoing.

smcneish@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Advocate District High School, River Hebert District High School

Geographic location: Cumberland District

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