AMHERST – About 50 high schools in Nova Scotia are part of the Nova Scotia Schools Athletic Federation hockey program, and starting in October Amherst Regional High School will be part of that program.
“We’ve been in meetings for over three months to lay out a plan and to address concerns,” said ARHS teacher and athletic director, Fred Gould.
The addition of hockey to ARHS was made public during the ARHS sports banquet.
“We’re very happy we’re going to have a team and happy with the added school spirit it’s already brought since the announcement,” added Gould this week.
The hockey coaches are Wayne Mackenzie and Derek Hebert, who is a constable with the Amherst Police Department.
The season begins mid-October, with provincial banners being contested at the end of March.
“There are 40 or 45 games in the schedule,” said Gould.
They will compete against other teams in Nova Scotia.
“The New Brunswick League High School Hockey doesn’t register with Hockey Canada,” said Gould. “So we can play there, but they can’t play in other provinces.”
The closest school ARHS will compete against in Nova Scotia is Truro.
“There will be lots of travelling,” said Gould.
ARHS is getting into hockey because, “It’s something our students want,” said Gould.
Plus they have the numbers.
“We have a number of student in Grade 12 who are too old for minor hockey and we have a number of students who used to play minor hockey but don’t anymore,” said Gould.
HOW WILL HOCKEY BE FUNDED?
Hockey will be funded like the 10 other sports teams at ARHS.
“Each team in the school has an account in the office,” said Gould. “Any money a team raises, whether it’s through fees, fundraisers or canteens or gate money, goes into that account.
“Any time they have bills, whether it’s for referees, rentals or gas, all the money comes out of that account,” added Gould.
At the end of the year ARHS wants each team to have a zero balance.
Money is also raised through Student Council.
“It’s about $6,000 to $8,000 a year divided between all the teams,” said Gould. “The two big ways they raise money is through student ID cards and dances.”
The money isn’t divided evenly among the teams because some teams have a very long season, such as basketball, while other teams have a very short season, such as slopitch.
“The School Board doesn’t provide money for our school teams, it’s the teams themselves,” said Gould. “We have the gyms and the field but, as far as financial support, the school board doesn’t provide funding for sports.”
Funding for sports and the sports banquet also comes from basketball camps and other sports programs held throughout the year.
Does the school board pay Gould for being the athletic director?
“I’m a fulltime teacher here at the school and the athletic director is a volunteer position,” said Gould.
Before becoming athletic director four-and-a-half years ago, Gould coached girls’ basketball for more than 20 years at ARHS. Gould is passionate about sports.
“Sports gives kids opportunities, and it gives them fitness and many friendships,” said Gould. “And it helps keep them on track in school and helps them focus.”
A large part of Gould’s job as athletic director is to help the coaches organize tournaments and to keep coaches and the NSSAF in contact.
“The majority are outside coaches so they don’t have access to the paper work they need,” said Gould. “And I’ll relay all the information that comes from the NSSAF to the coaches, and relay any concerns the coaches have back to the NSSAF.”
But the biggest part of his job is keeping student athletes on track.
GRADES and ATTENDANCE
Beginning this year students will need to pass all their courses to remain in sports, and they have to have an acceptable amount of attendance as well.
“If a student is failing math we’ll sit down with the athlete,” said Gould. “We don’t want to take sports away from them, so we’ll work the student athlete to get their marks up and get them back on track.
“The motto is Education through Sports and education is listed first and that’s not by coincidence.”
There is no number on acceptable attendance.
“There may be a death in the family and they may be out for a week or a month,” said Gould.
Teachers call parents when any student miss six and 10 classes and a parent will have a meeting in the office if the student misses 15 classes. The student loses their course credit if they miss more than 20 classes.
Gould will try to nip attendance problems among athletes in the bud if it becomes too problematic.
“If a student misses five classes I’ll have a talk but if they had a wisdom tooth out and missed a few days it’s more legitimate,” he said.
Does Gould miss coaching?
“I coached basketball for over 20 years, so I do miss the connection you get with the kids but it’s still rewarding when you’re working with 200 students (athletes) instead of 12,” said Gould. “I enjoy being athletic director. It’s important for kids to stay active and they make friends from all parts of the Maritimes.”
He also thanks the coaches.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of knowledgeable coaches,” said Gould. “High school is the highest level a lot of kids play, so you need as much knowledge as you can get.”
Gould said high school sports wouldn’t be possible without support from the community.
“Our community has been so gracious to support all our teams,” said Gould. “They donate stuff and sponsor tournaments and events. Amherst is a very tightknit community.”