BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
CANDOR — The Candor School District added some local flavor to its athletic department with the hiring of alumnus Pete Ahart to fill the athletic director position.
“I’m born and raised Candor actually,” Ahart said. “I lived here on Main Street my whole life and went to school here. I lived here the last 30 years.”
After graduation Ahart continued his education locally as well, graduating from Tompkins-Cortland Community College and SUNY Cortland.
He did have to leave the area to start his teaching career, however.
After Cortland, there were no teaching jobs in this area, so I went out of state to get my teaching experience,” he said. “I came back to this area, bought a house in Candor right on Main Street and then I got a teaching job over in Newfield. I lived in Candor, traveled to Newfield every day for about five years, six years, and then this job opened up. But, like I said, I’ve been a part of the community for the past 30 years and I love it. Every part of this community I love.”
Ahart gained some coaching experience while teaching out of state.
“I actually started coaching middle school soccer when I was in North Carolina. I started coaching middle school soccer,” he said. “Soccer was not something that I thought I’d see myself coaching, to be honest with you, but I learned a lot. When I was up at Newfield, I coached modified baseball and modified basketball.
“When I got into administration I had to stop coaching just because of the time and I had a young family. And being a half-hour away is a lot to travel with a young family, so I had to stop coaching, which was hard for me. I think that’s one of the toughest things about being an administrator is losing that ability to coach. That’s kind of the good thing about this job is that I get the best of both worlds, being an administrator and kind of coach.”
While Ahart likes the small-town feel of Candor, there’s a more important reason behind his return.
“I wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to me growing up and so much to my family,” he said. “My kids go here. I have a first grader now and my son’s in preschool. He’s not in the public school system yet, but he will be next year. I just have such a passion for this community.
“A lot of these teachers and a lot of these administrators here I know personally, and I hear so many great things about this district. I want to be part of that great thing.”
One of the challenges for Ahart and the athletic department is the merger with the Spencer-Van Etten district in various sports.
During the previous school year, the two districts were merged in football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, field hockey, wrestling and boys golf while remaining separate in volleyball, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field. Candor did not have girls golf while S-VE did not have boys and girls bowling, and neither school had participants in those sports, so a merger was not necessary. S-VE’s varsity baseball team folded just prior to the start of the season.
“The perception of the merge, I think, is a challenge for some of the community members, some of the staff members, some of the coaches, and the students,” he said. “The merge, to me, is a positive thing for the community for the students, providing that opportunity for the sports teams that may not be there if we didn’t have the merge, and ensuring that the merge and the transition and the transportation all go smoothly, especially during this fall season.
“The transportation piece is so big with the merge as I’m starting to see coming into this new position. I’m just making sure all these things go smoothly so that the community does see that this merge is a positive thing for both districts, Spencer and Candor. Without the merge we may not have some of these sports that we have, these three levels of football, all the soccer teams that we offer, field hockey that we offer Candor that otherwise we wouldn’t have. Those are the positive things that come from this merge.”
With the merge of various sports, some of the rivalry aspects are gone, such as the “jug game” in football. However, as Ahart points out, without the merge, the jug game may have disappeared anyway due to dwindling numbers in the football program.
“If we didn’t merge, we not even have enough numbers to field a team to to play any games, so that conversation wouldn’t even be happening,” he said.
NYSPHSAA requires 16 academically and physically eligible players to be on the sideline in order for a team to play a game. In all likelihood, had the football programs not merged three years ago, one or both schools might be playing 8-man football at this point.
“Right now, I think we’re going in the right direction with the merge,” Ahart said. “I think we’re smoothing out the kinks that came in the first couple of years of the merge. I think that argument with the jug game was smoothed out in the first couple of years. I think the community has a positive outlook on the merge right now.”
Fall practices begin Aug. 19 and the first regular season event will be held Aug. 30.
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