By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Central High School is offering its students a chance to experience a side of high school athletics that is rarely seen to the casual observer.
Several years ago, Central athletic director Kenny Rinker got the idea for creating a club at the school that focused on the area of sports management from a fellow AD during an athletic administration class in Charlottesville. Rinker passed the idea along to assistant athletic director John Cardamone, and last August the Falcon Sports Management Club was born.
"It's about getting kids actively involved with our athletics, and even getting the kids that just aren't involved in athletics involved in the school somehow," Cardamone said. "It just gives them an opportunity to be a part of something ... we give them that opportunity to get involved in sports, the behind-the-scenes stuff that no one gets to see."
For the last eight months, members of the club have been doing just that, taking care of everything from helping prepare the athletic fields, to getting visiting teams settled in at the school before games, to getting referees in and out of locker rooms. The club even helps out in the concession stand during games.
The club - which consists of about 27 members, according to Cardamone -- has also helped organize halftime contests during home basketball games, and some members even had the opportunity to run the public address system during JV football games in the fall.
"We've had kids announce our JV football games, which they really, absolutely enjoyed," Cardamone said. "They got to throw some catchphrases in there of their own. The crowd got energized by it and the kids actually loved it that there was actually someone else there besides just an adult announcing."
Cardamone said the club also helped organize a "Peanut Butter and Jelly basketball game" during the winter season, in which students who brought in peanut butter and jelly to donate to a local food bank got into the game for free.
The club has even run several fundraisers, mainly through 50-50 drawings at sporting events and a silent ticket auction, and the money raised goes right back into Central's athletic department.
Cardamone credited the sports management club's creation to club president Nathan Richard, a senior at Central who has been a manager for the football and basketball programs at the school for several years.
"I know not many people were involved with the teams, and I wanted to get kids the experience that I had," Richard said recently in a phone interview. "[Cardamone] called me to his office last summer and said he wanted a way to get other kids the experience of what goes behind working an event."
Cardamone said the formation of the club was a push to get Richard more experience in the sports management field, as Richard plans to get a Master's degree in sports management in college.
Richard is currently enrolled in the Industrial Cooperative Training Program at Triplett Tech, which allows him to earn school credit at an approved work site. Richard is interning with the Shenandoah University baseball team, where he does some field preparation and game film.
Richard said his sports management experiences have been enlightening, and both he and Cardamone hope that the club will present similar experiences for Central's students.
"I think it's a great opportunity to get more students involved in different aspects of sports," Richard said. "I want them to know that there is always something waiting for them."
Cardamone said one of the main focuses of the club at the moment is revitalizing "The Nest," which is the name given to Central's student section.
Cardamone also hopes to expand the role of the club to involve more responsibilities at the varsity level, which would include announcing games, working the game clock and keeping the scorebook in some sports.
Cardamone and Richard are both confident that the club can make that happen, and they are confident that the club will continue to grow in popularity among Central's student body.
"It's in a great spot right now," Richard said. "It can only grow from here."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org