Scott Gordon-Somers, the school’s director of Sports, Health and Wellness, decided to change the program in order to teach students about responsibility and teamwork.
New sports that have been introduced include archery, cross country, soccer, squash, and tennis, but the main push is to revive the school’s basketball programs.
“We've been in a stagnant state for a while,” Gordon-Somers said. “What was happening was that we were unable to develop kids early enough so that we could be competitive at the junior varsity and varsity stages of the game."
The K-12 school currently has middle school and varsity basketball teams. Last year, many varsity players graduated, forcing junior varsity players to move up a level. Due to a lack of players this season, the junior varsity program was sidelined.
Gordon-Somers is working alongside Coach John Della Marco and Assistant Coach Estanislao Ramos in order to put together three caliber basketball teams. Both Della Marco and Gordon-Somers feel as if they will be able to successfully bring back their junior varsity team by next year.
They want to give their players more preparation as the teams consistently face other schools who have taken part in competitive basketball for years. Some schools are involved in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), and The Kew-Forest School is trying to keep up.
Della Marco also believes this opportunity can help students develop more than just basketball skills. “We are teaching more than how to dribble and box out,” he said. “It’s about character, studies and being a good citizen.”
One immediate revelation from the new programs is that the middle school students have been the most influential on their high school superiors. In the past, the athletic department has faced issues where older students were irresponsible when it came to behavior during games and practices.
But according to Gordon-Somers, the demeanor of the middle school students are affecting the players on the junior varsity and varsity teams.
“They come to practice on time, they’re focused, they behave in the locker room and they treat the opposing team well,” Gordon-Somers said. “It's really caused the upper school kids to look at themselves and really get into shape.
“Plus, they are probably embarrassed by these young kids showing them up,” he added. “It's really made a change.”
For a while, Gordon-Somers wasn’t sure if the new sports programs would pan out. He said that he introduced a lot to players and staff in a short period of time, and it all seemed overwhelming just two years ago.
But now, he’s finally happy with the direction the entire athletic department. He’s also glad to have Della Marco, who spearheaded a lot of support for the basketball programs.
“Coach John has been an unbelievable coach,” Gordon-Somers said. “He rallied all the other coaches to do more, offer more and be engaged with the kids and their parents. He's definitely been an inspiration to my other coaches."
The next step for the future of Kew-Forest basketball is clear: Gordon-Somers wants to introduce a middle school league.
“I have our winter athletic directors meeting for our league coming up,” he said. “Most of our games are non-league games or scrimmages. I want to put it in effect so that our middle school can develop a robust program that's competitive."