More students from Arkport and Canaseraga are now participating in interscholastic sports programs, the optimistic result after the first months of merged Arkport and Canaseraga central schools athletic programs.

Superintendents of the two schools said last week that every component of the new dual-schools program, from three bus trips to games and practices almost every day to a girls volleyball program that has two teams where only one team existed in previous years, are initial signs the program will be successful.

The 18 enthusiastic members of the volleyball team represent the Arkport-Canaseraga varsity and modified teams. Interest in the modified game was so enthusiastic that two teams now represent the expanded modified program.

Girls volleyball team participants are evidence of more participation in the future, according to the superintendents.

“Everything we see in the newly merged program is positive,” said Arkport Superintendent Jesse Harper.

Girls and boys soccer plus cross country each have three team levels, an increase from a single varsity team in each sport during previous years, Harper said.

“And soccer was frequently a stretch because we were always concerned about our ability to field 11 players for some games,” he said.

Varsity, junior varsity and modified teams “have increased student opportunities for participation,” he said. That, he said, “was the goal of the merged sports teams.”

Cross country “always had modified and varsity teams so the expanded number of teams attracts more runners and strengthens the program,” Harper said.

Based on the fall participation, officials at the two schools are optimistic about participation in boys basketball, volleyball and wrestling this winter plus softball, baseball, track and golf next spring, the superintendents said.

The teams merged during the summer with almost complete support of the communities for the two school districts at several school board meetings.

Opportunities for hiccups in practices and games are obvious but “to date have only numbered fewer than a handful with multiple shuttles daily to practices and games,” said Canaseraga Superintendent Chad Groff.

Increased communications with parents from both schools has helped decrease potential problems for the fledgling two-school program, both superintendents agreed. Coaches from both districts were recruited last school year and hired in June. Both superintendents credited coaches for much of the communications that has guided students and parents about rearrangements of practice schedules that were in place, in some sports, for decades at each school.

Each superintendent thanked Dale Steiner, combined athletic director, for his leadership and organizational efforts to bring the two programs together: “He is committed to seeing that students have increased opportunities.”

Managing practice and game schedules, coaches and athletes aren’t small tasks, the superintendents said. “Steiner is accomplishing all of that while bringing the athletes of two school districts together under one program,” they said.

“Plus he is coaching varsity soccer in the midst of everything else,” the superintendents said.

An Athletic Council with eight members from Arkport and eight from Canaseraga have worked with coaches to build on fall season successes through winter and spring seasons and beyond, the superintendents said.

“This has been a great start to what we anticipate will be a great first season,” Groff said.

“Success to date is proof of the concept,” they agreed.