As the first bell rings this September to welcome the students the 2018-19 school year at Norwood High School, it will bring about a change of scenery for the Mustang athletes. After spending many a year in the Bay State Conference, Norwood will be begin playing sports this fall in the Tri Valley League.
“Obviously not everyone thought that it was a good idea to change leagues, but the general consensus found that it would be beneficial to make the move,” Norwood Athletic Director John Longley said. “I think it’s going to be an exciting year for all of our programs. People are excited about the changes and the new rivalries we’re going to make.”
One of the biggest reasons Norwood looked into leaving the BSC was its lack of success and inability to compete with the much larger schools in the league. Over the three years prior to looking into moving, the Mustangs have only won 33 % of all the games they played over the three sporting seasons during the school years. In addition, Norwood has only been able to capture 6 Herget Championships in the BSC (softball had grabbed three, while the baseball team had two and boys basketball had the final title).
During the fall seasons, Norwood found themselves with an overall record of 106-305-15 (28.8 winning percentage) with field hockey being the only winning team at 42-13-6. Winter teams saw a small increase with a 118-244-14 record winning at a 32% rate and spring teams finished at 146 – 261 (35.87%). Teams with winning records included girls basketball at 34-30; baseball (38-26) and softball (51-13) during the spring
Longley believes the lack of success came from the increasing enrollment numbers at the majority of the other schools in the BSC, while Norwood was one of a handful that remained flat.
“When competing against teams like Natick and Wellesley, who have 600 more kids than we have, twice a year,” it makes it difficult, the Norwood AD said. “Over the last 15 years, their numbers have continued to increase while our numbers have basically stayed the same, which was a huge contribution in looking to move.”
In 1989, the BSC had 12 teams, with five of them in excessive of a 1000 students; Brookline (1806) and Newton North (1610) led the way. As of 2017, every team in the league increased considerably while only two teams, Norwood and Dedham, experiences declining numbers. During the time span, the average increase in enrollment for the teams in the league was 48.5 %, with Newton North increasing 32% and Needham 66 %.
The average school enrollment in Tri Valley League in 2017 was 779.2 students, with 7 of the 11 schools having between 700 and 1000 students. Hopkinton is the largest school in the league with a total of 1109 students. Millis holds the distinction of being the smallest TVL venue with a mere 390 students, but despite being small, has been able to secure State Championships in multiple sports.
Not only is Norwood entering a league in which they find themselves compatible in terms of numbers, the Mustangs will not find themselves in as many long bus rides. The average distance from Norwood to its new TVL foes is 13 miles with Norton and Hopkinton being the furthest away at 22 miles.
As Norwood enters the TVL following fellow former BSC foe Dedham, who jumped to the league last fall, the league will break into two divisions: Medfield, Norton, Hopkinton, Holliston, Westwood and Norwood will be in the large division, while Ashland, Bellingham, Dedham, Millis, Medway and Dover-Sherborn will make up the small division.
During the football season, the Mustangs will still hook up with Dedham on Thanksgiving Day as a non-league contest being that they are both in different divisions within the league. Longley noted that Norwood has been able to secure games against neighboring Walpole in just about every sport.
Norwood is hoping that the change of scenery will allow its athletes to exercise their abilities on the fields and courts while bring success back to the high school. As the fall season gets underway, we soon find out if it was the proper move.
“Over the last year, people have come to except the move and are looking forward to the new opportunities and challenges. They are also interested to see how we do” Longley said. “The TVL is a great league, but in order to be competitive you need to have great teams with hard working athletes; nothing changes just by changing leagues.”