By Dharma Bartram
The Novato High School athletics department is a common topic of conversation among students, staff, administration and community members. Unfortunately, these conversations are not always positive.
While there are certainly exceptions, Novato High school has not won many pennants in recent history, or even placed close to first in many sports for that matter.
Schools such as Redwood, Marin Catholic or even San Marin tend to dominate Novato, which raises the question - why would this be the case?
The chief difference is a large amount of donations, primarily from alumni.
This extra funding allows for these schools to hire more experienced and successful coaches, purchase more useful equipment, and build better facilities.
Denise McIntyre, President of the Novato High Sports Boosters clarified how NHS sports are funded.
“Novato High School Sports are almost entirely funded by parents. The exception are for refs and reconditioning of the football helmets. Uniforms, equipment are all funded by the individual sports teams.” said McIntyre.
However, funding alone cannot simply buy success. A great athletics program must be composed of people who are passionate and willing to work hard and cohesively. One of the challenges posed to the NHS Athletic program was the hiring of Nolan Godfrey, the former athletic director.
Staff, parents, athletes and student organizations had difficulty with Godfrey over the course of his time at Novato.
“I really didn't have fun working with Mr. Godfrey much,” said ASB President and former ASB Athletic Director Marissa Raras. “He seemed stressed all the time and acted like he had too much on his plate to help us out, but that was his job. I am not sure why Novato High has had so many difficulties getting a solid AD, but hopefully they find someone soon. Until then, I am glad Fister is there to help out because he is amazing and I love working with him. Fister really cares about the students a lot and he actually treats us as equals.”
Raras detailed the effort put into sports by administration, most notably by Fister.
“At every student council meeting, Mr. Fister is there reminding us about upcoming games, fundraisers, and any way we can get involved in athletics,” Raras said. “I felt that the lack of communication and other issues sports teams and coaches were facing was due to the athletic director, not the administration. The administration care about sports, they just had other things on their plate and it wasn't their job to deal with athletics because they had an athletic director to coordinate it all.”
Fister, who is serving as interim Athletic Director until a new AD is hired, seems hopeful for the future of Novato High sports.
“We have a really good student body. The junior and senior class are strong and the freshman and sophomore class groups that are participating in athletics are excelling at the frosh soph level, so I’d say that the future is bright for our athletics,” said Fister.
One underclassmen team in particular that is excelling is the frosh-soph football team. They are currently 4-1, having blown out most of their opponents before falling to Marin Catholic.
Danny Kambur, a Frosh-Soph Assistant coach, described the what he believes to be the reason to their success.
“I think the success of our frosh soph team has largely been predicated on the fact that student athletes have been coming to practice since the wintertime,” Kambur said. “They’ve been practicing through the winter, all through spring ball, all through the summer and, ultimately, once they got into the season they found that they have a ton of success.”
Some of Novato’s lower revenue sports have done well in recent seasons, but may not have received a lot of attention for their success.
Senior Hayley Johnson, ASB Spirit and Rallies Coordinator and member of the Varsity Softball team, commented on a lack of attention to lower revenue sports.
“I think administration supports the sports that do well like girls’ lacrosse, sometimes basketball, and they try to support football because it's such a big ticket sport for so many schools but it tends to fall through,” said Johnson. “Sometimes I think a problem with the students, too, is that we focus on the big sports that we want to do well. We want to be one of those schools that are good at those sports, but we’re not, so administration has made it hard for us to focus on the little guys.”
Members of lower revenue sports such as golf, tennis and swimming have made it to MCALs in the past several years, some even making it to NCS and nearly winning pennants.
Reaffirming the importance of focus on all sports, especially successful ones, McIntyre said, “It would be great to see more marketing on the accomplishments of our athletes and teams. I think this is an area NHS administration is now focusing on but could always be improved.”
Administration plans to improve athletics in a couple different ways.
Fister detailed plans for a Novato High Hall of Fame, which would include alumni such as the 1986 girls basketball team, who won the state championships and the 2007 varsity football team who made it to the state championship, getting involved and helping Hornets athletics.
Fister also discussed that, as part of the $220 million bond that the Novato Unified School District will receive because of Measure G, a $1.2 million athletic practice facility will be built beyond the baseball diamond where the soccer field currently resides. The facility, which will consist of a turf field equivalent to about 1½ football fields is scheduled to be installed this spring and summer. The football field turf and track are also going to be updated.
With a new practice facility coming soon, up and coming potential, alumni involvement, and a new athletic director set to be hired, things are looking up for Novato High athletics.