Furies claim five state championships this school year

Forsyth Country Day’s athletic program collected five state championships this season.

Furies claim five state championships this school year
May 27
10:53 2021

There was a lot of uncertainty with high school sports this season. Delays, rescheduling, and quarantining was commonplace for a lot of teams. Through it all, the Forsyth Country Day (FCD) athletic program battled through and finished the season with a total of five state championships.

FCD has had a reputation for having above average academic standards, so for them to bring home five state championships says a lot about the progress of the athletic programs.

“Our teams were trying to win and the teams we were playing against were certainly trying to win, so it’s never easy to win a championship,” said Doug Esleeck, FCD athletic director and boys’ head basketball coach. “But then you add on all the logistical things with COVID and all the things that our coaches, kids and staff were having to work through every day. When you layer all that complexity on top of it, the championships, to me, mean more.

“I don’t know that there’s a more difficult year and season to fight and try to find a way to win than the one we just went through. Just getting to the field to compete was a win, in and of itself.”

This year, FCD offered all their sports except for cheerleading and wrestling. In the fall, the girls’ swimming team won the first state championship of the year for the Furies. This was the second year in a row the girls’ swim team won the state championship, making them the first team to do so in school history.

The spring semester is where things started to become weird and unusual, said Esleeck. Six Fury teams competed for state championships in the spring. Girls’ softball, boys’ lacrosse, and girls’ and boys’ track teams also won championships, bringing their total to five. Boys’ tennis and girls’ soccer made it to the championship game, but came up just short.

“I told our soccer and our tennis teams that made it all the way to the championship, that in a normal year they would have been celebrated like crazy,” said Esleeck. “For making it all the way there, even though they came up short in the last game, to have an opportunity to compete for a state championship is special.

“To win five in the middle of this crazy year was really remarkable. The thing I’ve always believed in sports is that it’s never a single year or team that wins the championship. It’s the culmination of multiple years of hard work in the offseason, it’s the continuity in coaches, it’s support from Garner Barrier, our head of school, putting an emphasis on athletics. It’s just an entire community coming together.”

Esleeck acknowledges that FCD is known for their academics; however, he feels this year proves their athletic programs should be a draw for the school as well.

“Forsyth Country Day has an incredible academic reputation,” he said. “If you want to go to Harvard, Forsyth Country Day can help you chase that dream. The thing I really believe about this year is that we have proven that if you have dreams of playing Division I athletics, if you have dreams about playing for a championship, if you have dreams about being a good player, you can accomplish those things at Forsyth Country, too.

“That’s the thing as athletic director, I have really felt like it’s my job to come alongside these coaches and kids and figure out how we can help them chase their dreams on the court, on the field, or in the pool. How do we help them chase those dreams, as well as all these remarkable academic dreams that our student body has? That’s what I really feel like this year has proven, not just to the community inside Forsyth Country Day, but to the community in Winston-Salem.”

Esleeck praised the coaches he has on staff for the tremendous job they did this year across all sports. He says the success the school enjoyed this year also speaks to the quality of kids the school has attracted.

“I think it really speaks to how well-rounded our student population is; that we have young people that are going to swim Division I swimming; that we have a Division I lacrosse player next year; and we have young people that are going on to play collegiately in softball,” Esleeck continued. “You know, sports you may not hear about every day, but they are kids that work incredibly hard.

“We have programs that are led by head coaches and assistant coaches that are really pouring into those kids, regardless of the headlines and attention. The kids are doing it because they love the game and their teammates. The coaches are doing it because they love those kids. I think that’s what it really speaks to.”

Being a coach of any high school sport brings its own set of challenges. Couple that with having to look after the entire athletic department as athletic director during a pandemic, is another thing alltogether. Esleeck was able to balance both positions well, while also doing his absolute best to protect players and staff to the best of his abilities.

“What I really felt like every year as athletic director is to serve every single one of our programs to the very best of my ability and this year that meant very different things than I hope it will mean in the future,” he said about his position. “I have an amazing athletic department staff that works with me to figure out buses, COVID policies and how we can keep our kids and coaches safe.

“There were just so many people that were committed to the experience that our kids have, not just in the classroom, but also what they do after school, in our athletic and extracurricular programs. To me, it wasn’t about the job I did, or necessarily even about the job our athletic department did. This entire school community from Gardner Barrier, all the way down to any other employee, was all committed to helping our kids have the best experience possible, regardless of the circumstances the world put in front of us.”

Based on the hard work the coaches put in, along with the athletes they had coming back, Esleeck knew some of the programs could have very successful campaigns this season.  

“We knew that we had some talent, we knew that we had some exceptional coaches, we knew that we were going to have a chance, but it’s hard to win,” he said about his programs’ success this year. “It’s hard to win a single game, match or point. The other guy wants to win just as much as you do, so I don’t know if any of us came into the year thinking we are going to win five state championships.  

“We knew that we had the coaching talent and the talent from our athletes for us to have a special year. Then you hope and pray that everyone can stay safe and healthy, because there were so many variables this season.”

According to Esleeck, this is the most successful season the Furies have enjoyed athletically by collecting five state championships. For Esleeck, winning is just one measure of success, but not the most important. He believes character building and changing the athletes lives for the better is vastly more important.

“The lesson of this year is, when you build into young people the right way and you have great adults around them that are speaking life into them every day, then the necessary result of that is success.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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