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The Sporting Spirit

Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

BOB CHAPMAN HOLDS a scheduling sheet while working on a recent day in his Liberty office.

That's What
He's All About

By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY — June 10, 2003 – Sports is Bob Chapman’s beat.
The athletic programs assistant in the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Coordinator’s Office, Chapman graduated from Roscoe Central School in 1964 and has been involved with the world of high school sports ever since.
During high school, Chapman lettered in three sports: football (center and defensive linebacker), track (100- yard dash, 200-yard dash [“back when they were in yards, not meters,” he said], relays and the shot put) and baseball, “mostly second base, and a little outfield,” he said.
“I wasn’t so great in basketball,” he recalled. “I was just a general athlete.”
After high school, he went on to earn a degree from Sullivan County Community College, and then began a 20-year career with Prudential Insurance Company. While selling insurance, Chapman started out in Liberty as an agent and later moved up the corporate ladder to sales manager, eventually winding up in California before returning home, and later taking early retirement.
Chapman has eight years of military service with the National Guard and U. S. Army Reserve.
While running Drehers’ Grocery Store in his hometown, Chapman was approached one day in 1993 by Fred Ahart, legendary coach and athletic director at his high school alma mater.
The Western Sullivan League (WSL) needed a secretary/treasurer, and Ahart asked Chapman to give it a try.
“Little did I know they were looking for an athletic coordinator,” said Chapman.
The WSL brought him on board on a trial basis in early ‘93, and hired him at the end of the school year.
Chapman anchored that post on a part-time basis for five years, while selling light bulbs and fishing tackle at Drehers’ store.
In the wake of the Sullivan West Central School District merger linking Delaware Valley, Jeffersonville-Youngsville and Narrowsburg school districts, the WSL faced a shortage of schools and folded.
“We either had to get larger or merge with somebody else,” said Chapman said.
With no way to get bigger in a hurry, the WSL closed up shop and its member schools joined the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA).
“Back in the WSL, the assignments were done by individual officiating groups as a central assigner,” said Chapman.
Since joining the OCIAA, Sullivan County teams are now assigned games by the OCIAA Coordinator’s Office, which operates out of an office at the C. J. Hooker Elementary School in Goshen under the auspices of Orange-Ulster BOCES. The OCIAA Coordinator has a satellite office at Sullivan County BOCES in Liberty.
James Osborne serves as OCIAA Athletic Coordinator. He supervises a staff of six full-time employees, plus a part-timer.
Asked what an athletic programs assistant does, Chapman replied, “That’s a toughie. I could go on for hours . . . I don’t think people realize all that we do.”
The OCIAA Coordinator’s Office puts together sports schedules for teams in several counties, including Sullivan. Taking into consideration the number of students enrolled in grades 10-12 from a proceeding year, the state ranks school districts in decending order as AA-A-B-C-D, with an AA school being the largest.
Chapman said weather patterns and geography (defined as travel distance/time) are also added to the scheduling mix.
“We can schedule golf matches in Orange County a lot earlier than in Sullivan County,” he said. “At the beginning of the golf season, we schedule away games [for Sullivan County teams] and here at the end of the season.”
In the case of The Family School Foundation (located in Delaware County, but part of the OCIAA), playing a soccer match against Tuxedo at the far end of Orange County, travel time on a bus is about 2 1/2 hours one-way. And that’s a heck of a bumpy school bus ride.
“It’s almost an overnighter,” said Chapman.
Weatherwise, Spring 2003 was the worst Chapman has seen in 30 seasons of assigning games: postponement followed postponement, and some cancelled games were never made up in the time crunch.
“But we got through it, we got the job done,” he said.
The coordinator’s office is already working on next year’s spring schedule of high school sports.
The coordinator’s office also makes sure that coaches have the required state accreditations: sports theory, techniques, philospohy, health sciences and mandated reporter.
The coordinator’s office also makes sure officials are up to snuff by fingerprinting new additions to the ranks and providing classes in the rules of the game.
“It’s getting harder to get good, quality people to come into coaching or officiating,” lamented Chapman. “People have too much on their plates today.”
According to Chapman, schools are now being forced to look outside their doors for coaches.
“A lot of teachers, by the time three o’clock comes around, don’t want to spend another two-and-a-half or three hours with kids anymore,” he said.
In the days of the WSL, Sportsmanship Day was an annual event for local student-athletes. With the merger into the OCIAA, the tradition kept going for a couple of years, but has fallen by the wayside.
“Jerry Davitt did a great job talking to the kids,” said Chapman, referring to a veteran high school sports official.
“Section IX has some sportsmanship stuff being put in place,” he added.
Chapman isn’t content to sit at his desk assigning schedules, making sure refs and umps show up and fielding brickbats about the occasional lack of sportsmanship out there on the playing field.
So he shuts off his computer, hangs up the phone and dons a black and white striped or blue shirt as an OCIAA official. He makes sure folks follow the rules in sports like football, track, baseball and softball.
“I love football,” he said.
Chapman’s been wearing a striped shirt on the gridiron for 20 years and has been officiating track and field meets for about 15 seasons.
Chapman’s view on the importance of high school sports?
“I think they are an extremely important part of a young person’s growing up and developing, if they are taught properly,” he said. “You’ve got to learn how to win and lose graciously . . . there are lessons to be learned by losing a ballgame. If the coach has the proper attitude, kids learn how to accept defeat in life.”
Chapman said that in his opinion, a lot of coaches are “more anxious to win” than was the case a decade ago.
“It’s win, win, win,” he said. “Maybe at the varsity level you should be there, but the modified and jayvee levels are just training areas.”
While the OCIAA Coordinator’s Office fields complaints about unruly players or hot under the collar coaches, they prefer to let the matter be handled by the school districts.
“There’s a sportsmanship rule in effect,” said Chapman. “If a coach or player is thrown out of a game by an official for unsportsmanlike conduct, they are out for the next game.”
A second offense means that coach or player sits out another game. A third offense, and it’s out for the rest of the season.
“As an official, I have no problem tossing somebody,” said Chapman. “If you’re a good official – the cream of the crop – and you toss a coach, they’re just going to respect you.
“I believe in giving coaches a fair warning [such as] ‘Hey coach, we’re only talking high school sports, not the NFL.’”
He said the OCIAA Coordinator’s Office runs the show from the opening kickoff to handing out awards to the winners.
“It’s the whole nine yards,” said Chapman. “We’re here for all the kids.”

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