By Bob & Sandy Weston
The Fulton Lions Club’s major focus is sight and hearing in addition to scholarships, youth activities and community support. The four major fund raising projects the Lions undertake to support these programs are a Chicken BBQ, Pancake Breakfast, Duck Derby and Lions Loot.
Under the leadership of President Dave Dingman, Lion members have and will be attending sporting events as part of their commitment to youth activities. Club members recently attended a Jr. Varsity football game and assisted Fulton Athletic Booster members in the concession stand on Homecoming with Oswego.
At a recent Lions meeting members were very pleased to have Chris Ells, Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics for the Fulton City School District as their guest speaker. Mr. Ells clearly spelled out his approach to Fulton Athletics as well as its educational component. Mr. Ells also met with us for a personal interview that we would like to share with you.
Along with his goals and objectives for the athletic program he administers, Mr. Ells emphasized the fact that without the help of the coaches and athletes, he could not have accomplished much of what he has for many of the programs that he helped initiate started from questions and concerns they raised. He added that the success of any athletic program is not only based on the commitment and dedication of the coaches and athletes but parental involvement and community support as well. He described the balance necessary between academics and athletics and at preseason meetings the need for greater participation between parents, coaches and athletes. Effort and good grades are essential factors when playing a sport.
Some of the things that Mr. Ells also covered with Lions members and us include: the benefits of being on a team; the Four C’s of Athletics, which are competence, character, civility and citizenship; the modified, JV and Varsity Philosophy, which ranges from learning the basics of a game to the culmination of each development program; and, Sportsmanship, which in part is to play hard, play to win, but play fairly within the rules.
As background, Mr. Ells told us that as a little guy, he loved playing sports. He did everything–football, basketball, baseball, and skiing when he got older. At age 8 and petrified of the water, he learned how to swim and a month later, he joined the swim team. Competitive swimming became a very strong part of his life as he swam competitively for the next 18 years. He added that running track and cross-country in high school are activities that he still enjoys.
Mr. Ells said he learned so much about life because of his commitment to sports. Paying it forward, he is trying to pass on all the valuable lessons he has learned throughout his sport’s career by focusing on the 4 C’s of athletics. Some of the benefits of being on a team, he said, include an increase in overall fitness, learning time management and achieving better academic grades.
Residing in San Diego, California, after graduating from SUNY Cortland, Mr. Ells taught math, social studies and physical education. Although he liked teaching math, PE was his passion. Elementary PE was not required in California so he moved back to New York State to pursue teaching PE and within a couple of weeks became the athletic director at an all girl, highly competitive, school in Rochester. He held this position for six years.
In his position at Mercy High School, Mr. Ells loved being the go-to-guy for the coaches, supporting the coaches and organizing the sports schedule. Although he enjoyed teaching, he decided to get his administrative degree in May 2006, which he obtained at St. John Fisher.
Mr. Ells is in his third year working within the Fulton school district. He has found the school board to be supportive of the programs he is responsible for. In 2011, some of the athletic programs were cut back and changes were made due to finances. Changes included combining boys and girls swimming and the elimination of freshman basketball due to a lack of participants, elimination of some assistant coaches and decrease in supplies and equipment. Since sports programs fluctuate over the years, consideration has to be given to the number of kids interested in a sport, availability of staff and busing.
Mr. Ells knows sports, having played many of them. He now is responsible to an athletic program that includes 63 athletic teams, 26 varsity level teams, 83 certified coaches (paid and volunteer), and over 1,100 athletes that compete each year at about 900 contests. Last year the Fulton City School District had 17 New York State Scholar Athletic teams.
Mr. Ells feels that participation in an Iron Man Triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a 26-mile marathon) gave him confidence in his ability. His love of sports and the commitment and dedication they demanded within the educational system brought him to Fulton and the administrative position he holds today.
To conclude, our school district has a tremendous advantage over some schools. Because of a somewhat recent renovation of our Athletic Complex, we are able to host the following: Friday Night Lights Wrestling Competition with 400 competitors, Syracuse Shocks Semi-Pro Football Team; and, Boys Track Sectionals with almost 300 runners.
Mr. Ells noted two upcoming wrestling events, which are December 19, Fulton vs. Phoenix on Time Warner and the renewal of Fulton vs. Baldwinsville Wrestling on January 29 at Baldwinsville and in 2014 in Fulton.
It was a pleasure for us to sit down and talk with Mr. Ells.
For further information on Fulton Lions: www.FultonLionsClub.org, or visit the Fulton Lions Club page on Facebook®.