So many teams and so little space



The Auxiliary gym is one of the three gyms at North Penn that has limited space for all student sports and activities.

TOWAMENCIN – During the winter, who doesn’t get cabin fever? It’s cold, the days get darker earlier, and people are stuck inside. For winter athletes, there is only one place to practice: inside the gymnasium. One would think with the navy, columbia and auxiliary gyms, North Penn could fit all of its athletics and activities. In fact, North Penn is struggling with space and time to fit everything in. With the rise of year-round practices for sports like baseball and softball, teams are trying to get work in wherever they can while the outside conditions are too poor. 

In the last twenty years, the rise of yearlong practices for teams has occurred. Before, teams would only practice in their season. For example, the basketball team would only practice in the winter, and the softball team would only practice in the spring. With the increase of competitiveness in high school sports, teams are looking to practice more in the off-season to be prepared for their upcoming season. The only problem is that teams like softball and baseball have to practice indoors because the conditions outside are too poor. This causes the number of teams that want space in our gyms to double due to the winter sports, spring sports, and other activities wanting space. 

“With the amount of teams, it is very difficult to accommodate everyone. One of our biggest problems is in the winter with out-of-season teams wanting to get work in. Here, in-season takes precedence over out-of-season teams,” North Penn athletic director Bill Bartle commented. 

During the winter months, over twelve teams request time in one of the three gyms. Some of the days, all three of the gyms are filled from 2:30-8:30. It is not just sports that try and get this space. We have two music groups as well, and the JROTC needs time to practice their routines.  

“There are nine sports in the winter, but when you add percussion ensemble and visual ensemble, which practice many times a week, right there you used up almost all the time in the gyms. [Then] you add girls field hockey, boys lacrosse, baseball and softball, just to name a few, just trying to get a workout in. Ten to fifteen years ago you didn’t have nearly as many teams practicing year-round. Today it’s almost a given if you want to compete at a high level,” Bartle remarked. 

For spring sports, the winter could create a wait to get out on their fields lasting weeks. Softball and baseball both require a dry field following a winter with no snow for them to use their respective fields. 

“When I first came here twenty years ago, I started year-long practices. We started in the fall because it was the best time, it would be sixty degrees and it’s a great time. Once we get into the winter almost everybody now is going from September on. I get to see all the kids and the 9th graders coming up before March,” softball coach Rich Torresani commented.

North Penn School District is discussing the idea of adding a ninth-grade center to the high school. This would come with adding many renovations like an extra utility gym and other space to accommodate the increase of students. The tight space in the gyms is already a tough issue, and adding another 1,000 students would bring troubles. Also, this would raise the question of making one 9th grade team or keeping the three separate 9th grade teams, all of which would need gym space. 

An alternative that the school district is looking at is using the middle school gym spaces at night to give extra time for teams to practice. All three middle schools have two gyms and most of their sports teams practice do not last past six p.m. The problem with trying to use middle school spaces is the amount of community groups that use those spaces for recreational sports or other uses. For instance, Towamencin Basketball uses Penfield’s gyms to hold their many age groups’ games during the weekdays. Though they may want to use the middle schools’ space, North Penn must give priority to community groups, as this may be the only time they get space for their activities. 

With the spring season starting and the weather improving, teams will hopefully be able to use their respective fields without any unexpected March snow. North Penn will have until next school year to hopefully address this issue and give some ease to fitting teams during their practice times in the gym.