Senior athletes are taking back their spring seasons by decorating their front doors. Specifically, in Putnam Valley, Section 1 parents are using an array of team paraphernalia — from banners and T-shirts, to flowers and photos — to represent their seniors across town.
Jennifer Fowler, mother of Putnam Valley High School senior lacrosse captain Jaycen Fowler, took this idea from their Class of 2020 advisors into her own hands.
“Since Jaycen didn’t get the opportunity to play in his senior year of lacrosse, I decided to make him a sign he otherwise would have gotten at his senior night,” Jennifer said. “Jaycen is upset about losing his senior lacrosse season. He’s worked hard each season and throughout the year to get to this point with his teammates.”
“He still works out daily in hopes they can participate in sports at the end of this year,” she continued.
Jennifer decorated the door with her customized banner, a few school spirited sweatshirts, a windbreaker and Jaycen’s jersey. She also added his cleats, lacrosse sticks and helmets, along with a few hats and yearbooks.
“Jaycen is very patriotic so an American flag was next to our door,” Jennifer said. “I also hung his University of Tampa shirt since that’s where he’ll be attending.”
Along with the Fowler’s, many other families around Putnam Valley have also taken part in this recognition of their students.
Elizabeth Broas and her husband decided to decorate their front door to surprise their son Charlie, a dual athlete in football and lacrosse.
The Broas family used a banner they received during football season, a poster of his favorite lacrosse photos and a flag that says “Nazareth 2024” to commemorate Charlie’s commitment to play lacrosse at the Division III level.
“Charlie worked really hard last summer and was named an ‘All-Star Player’ at every tournament that he competed in, so he was lucky enough to receive a good amount of attention from every division,” Broas said. “As parents, we are very proud of the fact that Charlie made an independent decision that was truly thoughtful — he considered more than just lacrosse.”
For many, athletics is more than just another after school activity. Their sport becomes a way of life and their motivation to continue trudging forward. Without the sport, athletes are suffering an incredible loss and are now having to to piece together this new reality.
In Charlie’s case, although his senior season seems inevitably canceled, he still has four more years of lacrosse to tackle at the collegiate level.
“We are positive folks and are still hopeful, not only for this spring, but for the next four years – bigger, stronger, better,” Broas said. “We are strong believers in pushing limits and giving something you love your all. Charlie has been, is and always will be a determined lacrosse player.”
Charlie’s teammate in both football and lacrosse, Daniel Clements, has also suffered a similar loss. Daniel’s mother, Eileen Clements, explained that she jumped up after reading the class advisor’s message.
“I was so happy to be able to do something for Daniel,” she said. “I think I was the first one to submit a photo, I was super eager! After days of sulking around the house, there was finally an action to take. The customs and traditions of senior year are leaving a big void, so the door decorating was [a great task].”
Similar to the Broas family’s door, the Clements hung up Daniel’s football banner, while adding his lacrosse jersey and goalie stick. Eileen added Christmas lights around the door as well.
Daniel is continuing his athletic and academic career at SUNY Plattsburgh, where he will play lacrosse. Daniel’s hope for this spring season is higher than most, as he broke his leg playing football in October.
“It was the homecoming game and senior recognition where he was taken off the field in an ambulance – it was so scary,” Clements said. “Immediately, Daniel was focused on recovering for lacrosse season, and he has worked really hard to be ready and he is.”
Lacrosse players from Putnam Valley have the opportunity to continue their workouts remotely, as Coach Tim Weir has sent plans out to the team to keep the team focused. As of now, the season is still not canceled, but postponed; “He is holding out hope to have some part of a season; although, I am sure it’s getting harder and harder to stay positive,” Eileen said.
Sister softball players, Alex and Keiko Waters, have been a part of the Putnam Valley varsity softball team since they were in seventh grade. After five seasons, their sixth is now up in the air and the pair is unhappy, to say the least.
“I’m feeling sad about the thought of losing out on my last season as an athlete possibly ever,” Alex said. “Softball has been one of the best things in my life and the thought of that being taken from me is heartbreaking, but I’m also staying positive in hopes to start soon.”
Keiko shares a similar sentiment: “Varsity softball has been a part of my life for five years,” she said. “I’ve always been excited for my senior season, to see how far I’ve grown and for my own senior night. Having my last season taken away from me feels unreal and upsets me everyday.”
The Waters twins have been coached throughout their varsity career by Coach Rena Finsmith. Finsmith is a special education and history teacher at John Jay High School, but commutes to Putnam Valley for practices and games.
For Finsmith, as a teacher, seeing her students at graduation and prom, taking pictures with them and sharing memories are the highlights of her year. As a coach, she feels that due to this postponement, she may not be able to host a senior night or team dinner to show appreciation for her players dedication to softball.
“It’s been hard thinking about my three varsity seniors, two of which I’ve coached since seventh grade,” Finsmith said. “You can’t help but feel a bit of a gut wrench at the possibility of not getting a proper send off for them. [But], I can’t help but think that what we are doing right at this moment to help flatten the curve is patriotic, selfless and the most important game for us to play in right now.”
Finsmith pushes forward the point that although this is a chaotic time, you have to find the positives: families are spending more time with one another, and there is kindness and appreciation for our healthcare workers and other essential employees.
Although Gov. Cuomo has said they will make a decision on school closures for the rest of the year by April 29, no one has a clear view on how this academic year will end.
“I feel robbed of something I’ve been waiting for as long as I can remember, like one of the most important pieces of my childhood was taken from me and there’s nothing I can do,” Jaycen said.
As a 2017 graduate from Putnam Valley High School, and a field hockey and softball player, I could not imagine bearing the pain you are feeling. Seniors, my heart is heavy for you.