By Jackson Lambert and Liam Hellard
Over the past several weeks, a new conference called the DuKane Conference (composed of Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Wheaton North, Wheaton South, Glenbard North, and Lake Park) has gained traction and will become the new home of Batavia athletics starting with the 2018 fall sports season.
This move which was at first questioned by football critics has now become a reality for all sports. Topics such as student populations were initially a barrier when discussing this move but seem to have melted away in light of a strict Dec. 1 deadline and an urge from the current DVC (Wheaton North, Wheaton South, Glenbard North, and Lake Park) schools to leave their previously residing conference.
Looking at these student bodies, both Batavia and Geneva fall short of the enrollment average by several hundred students. Due to the addition of Lake Park, which currently has a student body of more than 2,500 students, Batavia will now fall even further behind several of the larger schools in this new conference.
The decision was made by school administration and coaches and was approved by the school board. The move has left nearly all sports programs in an excited and optimistic state.
“I am up for the challenge,” said Matt Holm, former head baseball coach and current assistant football coach. “We proved to the Suburban Prairie that we were a force. We proved to the Western Sun we were a force. We proved to the Upstate 8 that we are a force. Now we need to do it again.”
Sports all across the board should benefit from a higher level of competition as well as a larger pool of teams to play at lower levels, according to many coaches.
“As a three-sport lower level coach here at BHS I am extremely excited about the new conference,” said Ryan Sullivan, a football, baseball, and basketball coach. “Many times over the last six years we have had many games cancelled with other conference teams because those schools couldn’t field full teams at each lower level. With this new conference all the schools we are forming up with are able to regularly field full teams in every sport and every level.”
Players like Jayden Johnson, freshman quarterback and varsity basketball player, are enthralled with the idea of facing larger caliber programs.
“Yes I do believe strongly that we will still be competitive in this league because our coaching staff is a big factor and also how hard myself and all my other teammates are currently working,” Johnson said.
While many are optimistic, some have voiced concerns.
“I will admit that I do get a bit concerned when I read or hear about coaches at other schools give in to their selfish ego-driven competitive paranoia and manipulate kids to specialize in their sport, monopolize them around the school calendar outside of their season and actively discourage them from competing in multiple sports,” said Scott Bayer, the current head wrestling coach.
“In my view, not only is this bad for athletes, it’s bad for our programs and it ultimately is bad for kids who are denied the experience of competing in different sports/seasons. I doubt we’ll move in this direction. I believe our collective athletic philosophy will continue to promote cross-training and multiple-sport athletes. Every wrestler-soccer player we’ve had, every wrestler-cross country runner, every wrestler-baseball player and every wrestler-football player we’ve ever had over the years is better exactly because they wrestled in the winter.”
2018 will be a big year for Batavia sports and will help prove the school in many ways against some incredible competition. Batavia hopes to better itself as it moves forward into this new era of athletics.