By John Boccacino
CANANDAIGUA — Growing up in West Seneca, N.Y. (outside of Buffalo), Ryan Staychock '96 has always considered himself passionate about the environment.
After learning about Finger Lakes Community College, and its logging sports program, while at a college fair, Staychock decided to enroll at FLCC to study conservation.
During Staychock's first semester on campus, his advisor, Marty Dodge, FLCC's legendary Hall of Fame logging sports coach, recruited Staychock to compete on the logging sports team.
Staychock was drawn to the tools used and the hard work required to participate on the logging sports team (along with his teammates, Staychock helped out on wood runs, cutting down the required wood for practice and hauling it back to campus).
After earning his FLCC degree, Staychock eventually moved out to Colorado to pursue his master's degree at Colorado State University. CSU's logging sports team was defunct, but Staychock helped the student-athletes generate revenue for the program by producing and selling firewood. Eventually, the CSU team was back, and Staychock had rekindled his passion for logging sports.
Staychock is currently in his seventh season as head coach of the FLCC logging sports program (10th season as a member of the coaching staff), and he is just the second head coach in program history along with Dodge.
The logging sports program at FLCC is seeking student-athletes to compete for the 2017-18 season, and Staychock took some time this summer to discuss the program, the sport, and the goals of the Lakers team heading into the upcoming academic year.
"As with 99 percent of our student-athletes, I did not participate in logging sports until I attended FLCC, and I credit FLCC for my academic success," said Staychock.
"My involvement was limited as a student, but I have great memories of competing for FLCC. As a coach, it's very rewarding helping students navigate their academic experience while learning and participating with the logging sports team. I want to see our student-athletes succeed academically, professionally, and personally."
With most of last year's student-athletes gone from the roster, Staychock is seeking interested competitors to join the logging sports program for this year. What kind of student-athlete makes for a successful member of the logging sports program?
"They need to be athletic, even just a little bit athletic. And they need to have the willingness to learn and practice," Staychock said.
"I really need students that have leadership qualities and can lead their teammates to WANT to win. Therefore, they will practice hard, listen, learn, and give a true effort. Winning comes from the students, not from me. Big and burly are NOT the attributes I'm looking for. My winning teams have been students that are fit, flexible, and understand posture and core strength."
Logging sports squads consist of six student-athletes, plus one alternate. There are team events where all six student-athletes participate, and there are singles events where one individual competes in one of six events.
The activities that make up the logging sports program at FLCC are (for the team portion): crosscut sawing, bow sawing (buck sawing), pulp, logrolling, pack board, and canoe racing. The individual events are: axe throw, single buck, chainsaw, pole climb, triathlon, and birling. There are also doubles events, where two student-athletes team up to compete in one of three events (fire build, cross cut to hell, and the underhand chop).
Competitions can be intense, lasting from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. or so, and student-athletes are judged on completing their event(s) in the fastest time. The team's practice sessions help prepare the student-athletes for the demands of competition.
Practices—which are held at the Marty Dodge Woodsmen Field, considered one of the nation's premier logging sports facilities— include stretching and conditioning (sawing, logrolling, pulp throw, crosscut sawing) before diving into team and individual events.
"I believe in building good, solid relationships with the student-athletes, so when I ask them to 'try harder' they will," Staychock said.
"If we give the students the tools and the support, they will come through. My philosophy really is to build leadership from within the team, because the students need to take on a leadership role."
FLCC is looking to field a men's team, a women's team, and a Jack and Jill (co-ed) team. The Lakers are hosting a meet in October and again in the spring semester on the main campus in Canandaigua. The competition will take place near the pond on Marvin Sands Drive, across from the G lot.
"Not every competing school has such a beautiful practice facility and ideal competition grounds with pond space for canoeing events and a 42-foot climbing pole on campus," said Staychock, who added that no other college in the region hosts two events in one academic year.
If you are interested in joining the logging sports program, call Staychock (585) 785-1574, or email him at Ryan.Staychock@flcc.edu.