Combined sports teams create opportunities

Weston-Wayland+crew+team

Courtesy of WHS Athletic Department

Weston-Wayland crew team

Jack Tutun , Staff Writer

Weston students are aware that their high school is relatively small, which means that a limited number of athletes are available each season for each sport. This has led to the creation of four current combined teams, or co-ops, that merge with teams from other smaller towns or who have a need to join forces for other reasons. Not only do Weston’s combined sports teams benefit through these co-ops, but their players also develop great friendships.

   The process to combine teams into co-ops involves multiple steps. Michael McGrath, WHS athletic director, oversees much of the process. 

   “We consider co-ops whenever we have a sport for which we do not have enough Weston students to fulfill an entire roster,” McGrath said. 

   When this situation arises, McGrath searches for another school in a similar situation. Once Mcgrath finds another town in agreement, the co-op team must be officially sanctioned. 

   “I need to get two different approvals. One from the Dual County League and one from the MIAA,” said McGrath. “It’s a pretty big process.” 

   The four teams that Weston has combined with other towns are the boys and girls crew with Wayland, girls hockey with Wayland, boys hockey with Dover-Sherborn, and boys and girls Nordic skiing with Waltham. 

   Wayland, which only has around 50 more students than Weston and is right next door, has a long history of combining teams with Weston.. Dover-Sherborn has fewer students than Weston and needed more players for its hockey team just as Weston faced the same need. Although Waltham is a large town, skiing is not a popular school sport and the Waltham team was in need of more participants, leading to that co-op. 

   In both hockey teams, the co-ops were needed in order to have enough players required for multiple lines of substitutes on a team. 

   “There are not enough players from Weston to have three lines for a hockey game,” said Chloe Zhang, a sophomore from the Weston/Wayland girls hockey team. “We needed to combine the teams.”

   Having sufficient skiers for the ski team is more about the challenges of finding enough athletes who have the time and commitment to travel to the closest ski mountains, making it a sport with lower popularity in both Weston and Waltham.

   “Neither of us had quite enough skiers to race,” said Milo Fernandez, a freshman skier on the team from Weston. “[Waltham] also needed a coach.” By uniting the nearby city’s skiers with those in Weston, the two teams overcame these challenges.

   Some students prefer just Weston teams made up of their friends, but some athletes have come out of their combined sports teams with a different opinion. 

   “They have made lasting relationships just like you would playing on a team solely from Weston,” said McGrath. “I mostly always receive thanks” from student athletes who were able to compete in their sport thanks to the co-op team.

   Friendship is an important aspect of sports. Teams who don’t get along do not often succeed. Although co-op athletes are new to each other, most eventually find ways to get along. 

   “I made many amazing, long-lasting friendships with the combined Wayland team,” said Zhang. “I am thankful to be combined with them.”

   Even the challenges of having to bring teams from separate towns together have proven to cement some lasting relationships on the teams. 

   “Since we work harder to be together, I think we subconsciously cherish our time more and get more out of it, meaning that our team succeeds in the long term,” said Paul Speciel, a captain of the crew team from Weston. 

   Merging teams with other towns has also shown to be beneficial in covering expenses. 

  “We are able to afford better equipment by having a combined Weston and Wayland team,” Speciel said. 

   Combining WHS sports teams can be helpful in ways other than keeping the sport going or creating friendships.

   “I have found working with other schools in this capacity to be very helpful,” said McGrath. “Both schools learn from each other’s ways of doing things and can introduce these new ideas solely into their own school system.” 

   Given the many positive outcomes of WHS’s current co-op teams, McGrath is considering other possible co-op opportunities. 

   “Currently we have one sport that I am considering as not only a new sport, but a co-op. The sport is boys volleyball, which is a spring sport,” said McGrath. “I am talking with Waltham about beginning this program as soon as this coming spring.”