By Christine Sampson
Air conditioning in the Pierson Middle-High School gym. Community service projects for student athletes. Meals for hungry players en route to away games. Fair scheduling of practices. These are some of the many issues being debated among the school’s athletic community lately — and a lot of them are coming from the student athletes themselves, thanks to a new group that has formed at Pierson.
That group, the Athletic Director’s Student Council, is made up of players from each team, including shared sports, who meet season by season to brainstorm ideas and offer feedback on the sports programs for the district’s athletic director, Eric Bramoff.
“I do take very meticulous notes when they talk, and I really listen to what the athletes are saying,” Bramoff said. “We’re here to figure out how to increase the experience for the student athlete. That’s why the committee was created.”
He brings his notes from the students directly to the district’s Athletic Committee, which is a formal group of administrators, school board members and community members, to help shape the adults’ discussions and possibly influence what guidelines come down from the school board.
“In a nutshell, this gives the students a line to the Board of Education, a line of communication with the people that set policy,” Bramoff said. “They’ll bring up something out of left field and I’ll say, ‘I didn’t see that and now I’ll address it.’”
The athletes’ student council membership changes season to season. Among the 13 students participating in the winter season is junior Paige Schaefer, a three-sport athlete who currently plays point guard for the girls basketball team. Schaefer, who was asked by Bramoff to join the group, said she sees value in it.
“We could have some influence over what goes on in our sports,” she said. “We haven’t really had that in the past. It’s a lot of collaborating with all of our ideas together.”
Junior Cooper Schiavoni, who plays basketball, golf and baseball, is another member of the group and said he hopes the council has a positive impact on athletics for future generations of Pierson students. He is excited for the group’s potential.
“I’ve had a great experience here, but no matter how great it is, we can always make it better for the next group of kids coming in,” Schiavoni said. “They’re already making great strides.”
He said the group represents a diversity of voices among athletes.
“We have a bunch of different kids coming in from different teams,” he said. “It will be fun to interact with everyone and hear everyone’s ideas.”
Schaefer recalled that in the fall season, the group talked about how the Homecoming festivities could be fine-tuned. She said in future meetings, she would like to talk about ways to encourage athletes to attend each other’s games.
Schiavoni said he is interested in service projects for players. “I think that could benefit us as players and could help out the community. It could be awesome,” he said.
The other athletes in the group this season are EJ Burke, Will Martin, Sam Warne, Jessup Kunzeman, Kathryn Powell, Halle Kneeland, Mahlia Hemby, Sophia Bitis, Katie Kneeland, Chastin Giles and Ryan Duryea.
Bramoff described the group as a pilot program, and said the school board’s Athletic Committee “was very much on board” with bringing in student input.
“I want the students to really feel like they have a voice,” he said. “We’re looking at it from 10,000 feet. How do we enhance the athletic process as a whole?”
Schaefer said the group represents a majority of students at the school — even kids who may not play sports but who attend games regularly.
“The whole idea is to enhance the student body’s experience with athletics,” she said. “If we reach that goal it will definitely affect the outcome in a positive way.”