Is the Dawn of Soccer the End of Hoops at Northwood?

While Northwood School’s admissions team is recruiting student-athletes for the school’s new elite travel soccer team next school year, current students are starting to see changes to the facilities, including a new lighting system in what for decades has been known as the indoor tennis courts. Soon the concrete surface of the tennis courts will be covered in artificial turf, on which the soccer team will train. But this development brings questions: what will happen to basketball and tennis at Northwood? Both programs rely on the soon-to-be turf field for training.

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Keith Mutunga ’21 defends the baseline at a recent basketball game at North Country School. (Photo: North Country School)

The school’s plan to add a turf surface to the indoor tennis courts has raised many eyebrows among students. Jonathan Hepworth ‘19 is a member of Northwood’s new basketball team and enjoys playing pick-up basketball in his free time. “I don’t like it,” he said. “I thought it was cool how we have a basketball team this year. It created a new vibe for the students and gave some students something they love. However if we do get rid of the basketball courts it really just gave our team false hope.”

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Students playing pick-up basketball during a weekend in 2017. (Photo: provided)

It’s not just the basketball team that is affected by this change, but many other students including those on the tennis team, or students who play ball hockey or rollerblade. John Beichler ‘19 is a member of the tennis team. “I understand where the school is coming from,” he said, “but is it really worth it to do this? Most of the tennis team’s practices in the beginning of the season are on the [indoor] courts, what are we supposed to do now?”

Students have known that turf is coming, but still many of them have not come around to the idea. Many in fact still don’t understand why. Patrick Callahan ‘18 said, “I love going down there to play basketball with the boys. We all love it, and it gives us something to do besides hockey. It’s something we all connect on.”

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Matthew Shanklin ’19 often spends free time shooting hoops in the indoor tennis/basketball courts. (Photo: Sam DiBitetto ’18)

Athletic Director Mr. Gino Riffle defended the school’s plans to resurface the indoor tennis courts with artificial turf. “With Northwood investing in a high-level soccer program, we need a place for them to train during the winter months,” said Riffle.

Riffle also noted that the facility could meet an important need of the local Lake Placid community. “This not only allows our soccer team to have a place to train, but also our spring sports, as well as the local community.  Lake Placid has many training facilities for athletes to take advantage of, but it does not have an indoor turf facility. We have done a lot of research to find the right turf, lighting, netting and we reached out to companies in this area of business to get a top level product at a fair price.”

Regarding concerns about the effects the change will have on basketball, Riffle said, “We will have the use of the OTC [Olympic Training Center], which offers two full-length professional grade basketball courts. They have been generous to allow our team to play games there this year.” He also said he understood the concerns of students who play pick-up hoops, but as of now, the school has no solution for them. “As for the students who love pick-up basketball, we are looking into different options. We understand many enjoy shooting hoops during their free time and we want this to continue.”

Students probably won’t see indoor turf on campus until next fall. “There is work that needs to be done to the roof and the drainage of the tennis courts,” said Riffle. “We have the goal of finishing this work before the end of winter and the turf will then be be installed.”

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