Interview with Marty Bitter, Director of Athletics
By Frédéric M. Martin, Editor-in-Chief
What a year it has been for the MUSD sports programs: our athletes won section titles, two years in a row, in the Girls Swim and Dive teams, and the Boys’ Volleyball state title. Boys Volleyball had been somewhat of a stagnant sport in Madera. The two-year top achievement is unique in our local history. Being the number one seed in division 2, Madera High won the section, then was top seeded in Northern California State Division 3, which meant they had all three playoff games at home, and they won. Superlative coach Rhonda Jefferson was able to work with a great team that peaked at the right time, got to play amazing tournaments, and allowed her team to get the taste of a top accomplishment: great coaching and lightning in a bottle! The volleyball buzz was in the air in Madera and the program’s success bodes well for next year’s team as more students try out for the chance to join and wish to continue the winning tradition at Madera High.
The girls swim team has developed in to a highly respected program, thanks to Erik Baymiller’s coaching and his unique ability to build strong relationships with his team’s athletes.
Sports programs are in development for the Matilda Torres High School. Director of Athletics Marty Bitter is presenting a five-year plan to develop and install a competitive sports program at the new high school and district wide.
The program will slowly build up over the first four years starting with the first ninth grade students, following them through to their senior year, and so on. We may start with an unfinished campus in 2019 or wait until 2020 with a completed campus and sports facilities. If the school opens in 2019 the athletics teams might have to use other site facilities for practices. If the Matilda Torres High School facilities are not complete. Hiring coaches will be somewhat challenging because a new program takes time to build with first year students, in startup mode so to speak. At the same time, it is an opportunity for a coach to make his or her mark and build from scratch. It could be harder to hire a seasoned coach who may be more interested in working with an existing program and work his or her magic around a program already in place. Some coaches are interested in coaching with the Desmond Middle school, so they can coach them for 6 years from 7th to 12th grade, thereby giving them more time to build longer relationships and more years to develop their own program and help the students bloom with two extra years of mentoring budding athletes.
In terms of league play it is best to open with just a Freshman class and freelance the first two years. Game schedules are set up in two-year sets, in the case of Matilda Torres high school, Freshmen and Sophomores with home and away games switching from the first to the second year. The first two years at the new high school, the students will not be placed in any league and will play in games as freelance teams, which may require more travel than playing within an established pool of schools. At the third anniversary of the sports program, a new two-year cycle will kick in, the school will likely be included in a smaller league for the following two years by the section commissioner for the area. Then, we can hope to move up to a higher league once the first students have graduated and our fledgling program starts producing competitive results.
A lot of work goes into building a sports program, beyond building the sports facilities. MUSD will likely hire an athletic director within the next year, as so much preparation work, resource allocation, equipment vendor selections, fund-raising, etc. will need to have been completed by the time the school opens its doors. The sports selections are also critical and must correspond to the local resources and sports affinities we can see shaping the future of the Central Valley; for example, girls wrestling is the fastest growing sport in the Central Valley and will most likely be featured at the new school.