Jeff Dellis: Factors behind Nevada Union High School’s struggle in sports go beyond field of play
I imagine that it’s easy to look at the last three years of Nevada Union football and come to the conclusion that my/our football coach is not doing a good job, as Jim Black stated in an Oct. 21 letter to the editor.
In reality, one could arrive at the same conclusion about many of our athletic programs as of late.
Statistically speaking, over the past three years, our Sierra Foothill League (SFL) winning percentage has been hovering at about 30 percent. The unfortunate truth is that Nevada Union High School has won only two league championships over the past five years (both in women’s basketball). After so many successful years as an athletic powerhouse at every level, Nevada Union has experienced a dry spell on the field, turf and court.
Before we jump to any conclusions or attribute blame to specific coaches, let’s look at some factors that in my view have contributed to the current state of affairs.
Over the past 14 years, Nevada Union has experienced a significant decline in its student enrollment. In 1999, Nevada Union had 2,750 students enrolled and by 2009 enrollment had fallen to 2,264. Today we have 1,647 students enrolled. Respectively, that is a decline of 1,103 (40.4 percent) and 617 (27.3 percent) students over the past 14 and six-year time-frames. The decline is attributable to numerous causes and a subject for another day’s discussion.
High school athletic leagues have traditionally been segmented by the size of student populations. Those schools having large student enrollments compete against schools of similar size. Those schools with smaller student enrollments compete against smaller schools. The painful reality is that our significant decrease in enrollment (and potential number of student-athletes), without a correlating reclassification into a more appropriate league, has contributed in no small part to Nevada Union’s very limited athletic success.
Nevada Union is currently in the Sierra Foothill League, a large school league, that MaxPreps.com calls “the best league in the state.” The schools in the SFL have won more section titles than the rest of the section schools (195 schools) combined. In addition to Nevada Union, our league includes, Del Oro, Folsom, Granite Bay, Oak Ridge, Rocklin and Woodcreek high schools. Each of these schools have significantly larger and growing student enrollments. I am confident when I say that anyone that knows the game of football, knows that our football coach, Dennis Houlihan, knows football. He has been a winner everywhere he has been. The same is true for all of our hard-working dedicated coaches and their respective staffs.
Nevada Union athletics finds itself in the perfect storm of declining enrollment and the powerful Sierra Foothill League, both of which have contributed to our less-than-stellar winning records.
I can assure you that it is not a reflection of the quality of my/our coaches and that everyone at Nevada Union desires to be more successful in terms of winning percentage.
Finally and most importantly, although the traditional measure of success, athletics is about far more than winning records.
I can confidently say that our coach’s highest priorities are centered on the development of their player’s character, leadership qualities, team loyalty and the importance of service to community.
In my view, no one does this better than Dennis Houlihan. Our players and school are blessed to have him guiding our football program.
Jeff Dellis is athletics director at Nevada Union High School.
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