Hackley Sports: Underdogs?

Hackley teams have been competing with other independent private schools – the Ivy League Prep League – for decades, and have always found success. Some years, the school is at the top of the basketball rankings, while also sitting at the end of the soccer standings. Other years, it is just the opposite. Although varying in success, not enough credit is given to the athletic department and players.
Hackley has been the smallest school in the Ivy Preparatory League, with a total high school enrollment of about 375. The biggest school, Horace Mann, sits at a whopping 735 students in their high school, roughly two times the size of Hackley’s. Despite enrollment numbers, Hackley still participates in roughly the same number of varsity sports as its competitors – 19 varsity teams.
The fact that Hackley has a small number of players but plays in the same number of sports as other schools in our league means that about “60 plus percent of our student-athletes play two or more sports here,” said Director of Athletics Jason Edwards, “We have just under 200 boys and just under 200 girls, and we have 19 different varsity teams […] we created probably one of the biggest athletic programs.”
Our versatility and success are best highlighted in some of our accomplishments this year – Boys Soccer made it to the Finals of NYSAIS (New York State Association of Independent Schools), Girls Tennis won NYSAIS, Boys Squash won the Ivy League Prep Tourney and lost in the Finals of NYSAIS, Field Hockey finished first in the Ivy League Prep standings, and the list goes on.
Arguably, the main contribution to this success is the multi-sport student athletes. One example is senior Gregory Reich, who has reflected his athletic versatility – playing the #2 seed in Squash (out of 14 players) and starting as #2 doubles in Tennis in the Spring.
“Along with Squash in the winter, I play tennis in the spring and give it my all. I always wanted to participate in Hackley sports and contribute to my school, and playing multiple sports accomplishes that goal” said Greg.
Another multi-sport athlete is junior Sophia Petriello, who has been a soccer and basketball varsity athlete since the 8th grade. Sophia says that “I feel like I contribute to both teams a lot, and am ready for next season!” Girls Basketball and Girls Soccer both finished 2nd out of the 8 Ivy Prep League teams. Thanks to multi-sport athletes, our teams are succeeding.
A potential other reason for our versatility and success stems from middle school involvement, and how our 7th and 8th-grade middle school students can choose among a multitude of sports. This allows them to develop their crafts early, which prepares them better for the varsity level.
Other schools in our league such as Trinity and Dalton (which have a K-12 school enrollment of 1040 and 1313 students respectively vs. Hackley’s 840 students) do not require their students to participate in a sport but give them the opportunity to opt for Physical Education.
Hackley on the other hand requires its middle school students to participate in a sport, which arguably gives students a “head start” with their sports and potentially makes up for a lack of numbers. Hackley’s middle school athletic requirements expose students to new sports, potentially a sport that they might have never tried if they were not required to choose one.
Unfortunately, adding sports has been an issue. Already stretched relatively thin in terms of numbers (compared to other schools), as well as the energy, money, and commitment it takes to start up a new team, some sports have not been added to our portfolio. Girls Volleyball, as well as Water Polo, are some of the sports that are played within our league but are not offered here on the Hilltop. “We’re worried about losing the program that we have by adding [sports],” said Mr. Edwards, and adding other sports could be gambling [with] our already extremely successful program. However, the athletic department does have these sports constantly in the back of their head, and enough interest could potentially tip them over.
If enrollment size was the only dictator of success, Hackley would be sitting at dead last in every league. However, that is not the case. The success of Hackley’s athletics is often overlooked – Hackley is tiny compared to the schools in our league, but still manages to have great success. Therefore, winning games is not just a reflection of Hackley’s athletic versatility but also the success of the school as a whole.