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The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


Downers Grove feeder and club teams affect DGS and DGN

Downers Grove has many club sports teams that prepare young athletes for the high school levels, but DGN has created a feeder program that has excluded DGS athletes.
Kate Dziewinski
Scrolling through the Downers Grove Wolfpack basketball team website.

Downers Grove club teams and feeder programs are not very different from one another, until it comes to money.

Downers Grove high schools share many club sports teams, for example, the Downers Grove Panthers, the Downers Grove Longshots and the Downers Grove Outlaws. They also share one feeder program, the Downers Grove Wrestling club, but DGN has their own basketball feeder program- the Wolfpack Basketball team.

The difference between club sports teams and feeder programs is that club teams represent a town but welcome kids from other towns to be a part of the sports team.

A feeder program is built to mainly represent a single high school, or high schools within the same town. The DG Wrestling Program is an example of this. But this feeder program allows other wrestlers in the surrounding towns: Woodridge, Bolingbrook, Darien, Lisle, Oakbrook and Westmont.

According to the DG Wrestling Club website, it states, “The Downers Grove Wrestling Club (DGWC), is a youth organization that serves the current and future students of District 99, and the communities of Downers Grove and Woodridge, and portions of BolingBrook, Darien, Lisle, Oak Brook, and Westmont.”

Both of these youth sports programs allow athletes to learn and play together for years. With either type of team, feeder or club, most students who participate in those programs end up playing together at the high school level.

With that, most sports at DGS do not have any trouble getting enough students to fill a full team. But the DGS varsity girls basketball team does not have a feeder program or a club program designated to feed younger girls into the team, so they tend to have fewer girls try out.

“I think a feeder program is definitely an important piece in creating a culture in the community that is long lasting. On the north side, they have a very well-known feeder team, and it’s been around for several years now. I think that is one of the reasons why they are they where they are every single year, because the girls get the opportunity to play with each other for years and years,” DGS head varsity girls basketball coach Lyndsie Long said.

DGN has had their own feeder program since 2017: the Downers Grove Wolfpack boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

“We became a true feeder program for two reasons: the staff of both the girls and boys’ programs came to us and asked us to make Wolfpack a feeder program for DGN, and around the same time, (2017) the league we had played in since 2007 (DuPage Youth Travel Basketball League) was switching to only allowing high school feeder programs to play in the league. We also looked at the residency of our players and over 90% were in the DGN school district. We grandfathered all current out-of-district players to be part of the program until they graduated eighth grade,” Wolfpack Director Eric Kramper said.

Only allowing DGN athletes on the team has left DGS with no feeder program for the girls’ basketball team. This has ultimately given the DGS girls’ basketball teams a setback as they do not have any girls basketball programs that feed into DGS.

“We have worked hard to make our program strong and you have seen the results in the last few years. The Wolfpack program allows us to train athletes who will be playing together in high school. We expect both DGN programs to compete against the best in the state, without a feeder program, high school programs start with a disadvantage from day one,“ Kramper said.

As an example, the DGS girls varsity basketball team consists of a roster of nine girls, while DGN varsity girls basketball team consists of 11 girls, and most of them played on Wolfpack in their younger years. On Feb. 7, DGS and DGN faced each other at Willowbrook High School for the WSC conference first place match up, DGN won, 57-43.

“When your kids have been playing together for a while as a team and they develop that continuity and chemistry, it could only be a good thing for you and us. Not having that program, I think it’s obvious to say that it’s probably having an effect on them,” head varsity football coach Mark Molinari said.

Money differences in Downers Grove feeder programs and club teams

Football continues to be the most popular sport for younger players at DGS and DGN to try out for once their Downers Grove Panthers seasons conclude.

Even though Panthers is considered a “feeder program” to the community, park district and DGS/DGN football coaches, it is not considered a feeder program to District 99. So, it does not get the same benefits as the feeder programs do, since they do not exclude young athletes that are not from Downers Grove but have Downers Grove in their name (Downers Grove Panthers).

“The Wolfpack gets to use the DGN facilities at a very reduced rate, they don’t pay for some supervisors. While the Panther program and some of the other programs have to pay a much different fee, and it’s not a very realistic fee compared to what the Wolfpack has to pay,” Molinari said.

According to “Rates for Rentals” it states that:

Comparing the money differences to rent D99 facilities between group B (feeder programs) and group C (club teams). (Kate Dziewinski)

The Regulations and General Conditions for Use of D99 Facilities states that Group B is considered the “Not-for-Profit Community Groups and Educational Institutions.” In other words, feeder programs.

While Group C is considered, “Other Entities. For-Profit/Private Entities and Individuals,” which are the club teams of Downers Grove.

Most club teams from Downers Grove practice in DGS and DGN facilities. For instance, Sunday morning practice for the Downers Grove Outlaws (Group C) softball teams has taken place at DGS even though they allow other girls from other towns to play on the team. When DGS girls play for the Downers Grove Outlaws, they don’t often switch coaches because Bill Drenth, one of the varsity softball team’s coaches, also serves as an assistant coach for the 18u Outlaws team.

“I enjoyed practicing at DGS when I played for the Outlaws because it provided a good space for us to play in. It also gave me an idea on how high school softball would be,” junior Sophia Graber said.

The Downers Grove Panthers (Group C) do many things to benefit DGS and DGN, including preparing young athletes for the high school levels of tackle football. DGS/DGN coaches repay this assistance by lending a hand to a few of the teams, as they will be the ones coaching them in a few years’ time.

“90% of the Panthers kids go to Downers Grove schools, but not all of them do and so the district doesn’t view that as the feeder program, but I disagree with them, there’s only one football team that’s called the Panthers in Downers Grove, and they’re recognized by the park district, so it’s my hope that down the line that they will be recognized as the feeder program like the Wolfpack for football, so those kids can get the same benefits as the Wolfpack players do,” Molinari said.

As an example, Molinari visits and helps the young Panthers teams even if they are not considered a “feeder program” by D99 because he knows that he will be coaching those young athletes once they get to DGS.

“A lot of those players are more of the better players that come; obviously they have played the game before and coached. We have relationships with the Panther program, we teach them some of the things that we do, and we try to have the closest relationship that we can with them as possible,” Molinari said.

Junior Addy Phillips and freshman Aubrie Phillips coach the Panthers junior cheer teams (Group C) in their free time even though D99 does not see the Panthers as a feeder program for DGS or DGN.

“I love coaching the Panthers team because I was a Panther myself. A lot of the DGS and DGN cheerleaders right now are also Panther coaches, which I sort of find funny. Two years ago I coached the varsity Panthers team and now some of those girls are on the DGS varsity cheer team with me,” Addy Phillips said.

Recently, the JV and varsity DGS cheer squads collaborated with the younger Panther cheer squads to execute a routine at a halftime show for the varsity boys basketball game. Head varsity cheer coach Shannon Lahey has seen that these relationships will benefit the DGS cheer squad in the future, since most of them will be attending DGS or DGN.

The Downers Grove Panthers junior team, JV and varsity DGS cheer teams preparing to start their routine for the halftime show together. (Kate Dziewinski)

”I would love it to be more geared towards preparing athletes for the high school level. I try my best to get involved with them because I will be their coach one day, which is another reason why I love my girls coaching the Panthers teams the Mustang way of cheerleading,” Lahey said.

This past year when DGS and DGN played each other in boys soccer at DGS, young players from the Downers Grove Road-Runners soccer club (Group C) stood with the DGN and DGS varsity players during the National Anthem. The Road-Runners were also the ball boys throughout the game as well and played a quick match during halftime.

Even though Downers Grove club teams have bonds with the DGS and DGN athletes and coaches, they still have to pay a larger amount of money compared to the Wolfpack and DG Wrestling club.

“Downers Grove North has created a feeder program that only allows North kids to be in their feeder program, and it has made a big difference. So if you’re a South player and you’re a part of the community of Downers Grove, it’s kind of becoming an exclusive thing, and I’ve understood why they’re doing it, but I’m not sure if I necessarily agree with it. The schools seem like they support it, but it’s definitely not been a fair playing field for North and South,” Molinari said.

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