NORTH SALEM, N.Y. — Something unique is brewing in North Salem’s athletic program and the trophies say it all. The Tigers’ boys program won the Class C Kerr Cup All-Sport Championship issued by the New York State Sports Writers Association three weeks ago. The award-named for Bob Kerr, a Long Island track and football coach who died a year ago—recognizes athletic excellence for the 2016-17 school year.
“It’s quite an honor,” athletic director and boys basketball head coach Henry Sassone said. “When you look at some of our teams, it demonstrates the strength of the program. But a good measure of a school district is the number of kids who participate in sport. Winning a championship is the icing on the cake.”
All three sports of boys soccer, boys basketball and baseball won sectional titles with the boys soccer and baseball teams taking home state titles.
“This is something that has been taking some time in various programs through the years,” Sassone said. “We’ve got kids who work hard, and there is a lot of support within the community and our booster club. Our administrators have supported the athletic program, and it’s incredible to see how much time our coaches give to athletes preseason, postseason and in-season.”
North Salem’s boys soccer team had a tough road on its way to a state title last season under head coach Ron Hendrie. But in order to weather the storm, they loved the game and kept playing for each other.
“This was possibly the best team and I emphasize the word ‘team,’” Hendrie said. “This group of guys bonded together so well. We didn’t have that all-star go-to guy. Our strength was our unity. Our ability to be a team on and off the field. They respected the game and each other. It was one of the most incredible coaching experiences I’ve ever had.”
Singing with fans after games has also brought the Tigers together over the years.
“It gets their guard down,” Hendrie said. “If they sing, they can relax with each other. The louder they sing, the more they can put their heart into it. You try to get them a little silly, it’s part of the bonding process.”
Its baseball squad wasn’t too shabby either, capturing a second-consecutive Class C state championship this past spring.
“It’s great coming from a small school,” head coach Rob Gilchrist said. “Believe it or not, the teams feed off each other. [The baseball team] knew what it took to get to the state tournament, but the No. 1 thing about why this team was so special was the senior experience that we had. The team was very resilient and refused to lose. And they believed in one another. Everybody had a job and it worked out in the end for us.”
The Tigers have done it all without the finest athletic facilities in the area either, but they are pushing hard to play on the best fields as much as possible.
“We’ve found ways to overcome that,” Sassone said. “In the postseason, to get our teams ready, we rent facilities that have turf fields or travel to other school districts. So that they have experience on that field for the sectionals.”
North Salem also sent two boys skiers to states in Luke Devey and Christian Kappes.
Sassone’s varsity basketball team made a solid run into the regional playoffs last winter and won the section down at the Westchester County Center.
“We’re a small school district, so we have a limited number of players,” Sassone said. “We’ve had some kids who are Division 1 athletes, but our numbers are not extraordinary in that area. Maybe we are just overachievers.”