Student Athletic Participation Thrives at MPH

By Ryan Kinane

Every day in the winter after school, usually past the time of 4:30, either the Girls JV and Varsity Volleyball team or the Boys JV and Varsity Basketball team can be seen getting ready for practice. The gym fills up with student-athletes, and the coaches begin their practices. As the fall sports season has ended, the winter sports season has begun. At Manlius Pebble Hill, it’s important that the majority of the student body plays at least one sport per year. Whether it’s in the fall season, winter season or spring season, student participation in sports is vital for whether or not Manlius Pebble Hill plays a particular sport each year.

Last year, 257 Modified, Junior Varsity and Varsity athletes played a combination of Boys Soccer, Girls Soccer, Boys Basketball, Girls Volleyball, Boys Tennis, Girls Tennis, Track and Field, Cross Country, Varsity Golf, Boys Lacrosse, Girls Lacrosse, Alpine Skiing, Girls Ice Hockey, Softball, and Baseball. As Manlius Pebble Hill is an independent school, this number represents a significant percentage of students in the Upper School and Middle School.

Over the years, Manlius Pebble Hill has been a relatively small school. The student participation in sports is usually high, according to Mr. Don Ridall, the Head Boys Varsity Soccer Coach, Chair of the Physical Education Department, and former Athletic Director at MPH. “We still get, roughly, seventy-five percent of our Upper School population to play at least one sport in their career here. I don’t think that has really changed a whole lot, but that will go up and down in different years,” Ridall said.

In recent years, however, fewer students have played all three seasons. Coach Ridall said, “When I first started, I would say there were more kids that played all three seasons than what we have now. I would think that’s the biggest difference.” The number of students who play three seasons today, according to Mr. Jim Ryan, MPH’s Head Basketball Coach and Athletic Director, is around 30-35. This number is much less than what Coach Ridall observed when he first started at MPH in 1975.

In the Fall of the 2017 season, Coach Ridall had 24 players on his team. This is a relatively big roster that includes a starting team, a second-string team, and a few substitutes.

Since some students have to play all three seasons, they have to get good at time management. “You have to get your homework done during study halls and tutorials. This gives me enough time to practice after school without homework bothering me, putting stress on me or anything like that,” said Alex Abrams ‘21, who plays Boys Varsity Soccer, Basketball and Lacrosse. “I usually get home at around 5:30-6:00. If there is a late practice [for basketball], I get my homework done before practice. For lacrosse, I get home at around 5, and the rest of the night I have time to relax.” Student-athletes at MPH must have good day-to-day time management from season to season.  

Since Manlius Pebble Hill is such a small school, it doesn’t have tryouts for teams, which can have positive and negative effects.  According to Ms. Pat Bentley-Hoke, Head Coach of the Girls Varsity Soccer Team and an English teacher at MPH, not having tryouts “takes a lot of built-in tension out of it. I have a lot of friends who coach at other high schools, where they do have tryouts. I think that there’s such high pressure on coaches, and such high-stakes for players at those schools. I think not having to combat that makes it much easier to build team culture.”

With a different situation than other schools, Manlius Pebble Hill must have more than sixty percent of its student population play at least one sport in their high school career. Manlius Pebble Hill has a small population of students, but a very high participation rate in their sports.