Granite Games getting closer

You can’t stop the Games from coming, you can only contain them.

That’s why the creator of the Granite State Games, Bishop Guertin High School girls soccer coach Pat Mulcahy, is moving steadily but making sure he doesn’t bite off more than he can chew with the concept and event, set for June 25-28.

“I think of it as a startup company,” Mulcahy said. “It takes time. The awareness is good, it’s not great. But in the years to come, it should be great.

“I think it’s going to be good. I’ve always said if we can get to tear three, it’s going to be huge. It’s a learning process. Once the word gets out, I think kids are going to flock to it.”

Year one is always a struggle, but Mulcahy’s dream appears to be on track, an athletic extravaganza which will include basically high school age athletes from four New Hampshire regions (Southern, Lakes, Seacoast and Monadnock) competing in the sports of field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and track and field.

This all began with an idea that popped into his head in January of 2014.

“It’s crazy how time is flying by,” Mulcahy said. “We just had a tremendous month of March, loads and loads of different tryouts. It was awesome. We had a ton of kids, from the Southern and Coastal regions, which is what we expected. And the response from the Monadnock and Lakes Region was good as well.

“Now we’re just rounding out the rosters, and we’ll be good to go.”

Soccer will complete tryouts, and basketball has further tryouts as well, and information on a lot of that is at the Games’ website, granitestategames.org. If everything goes according to plan, Mulcahy said, about 1,000 athletes are trying out with about 800 making the team.

“Soccer will be our most popular sport, and we had a huge response for lacrosse in the Southern Region,” Mulcahy said.

Besides athletes, the Games just filled its biggest need – an event planner/coordinator to deal with the day-to-day logistics of the event. Mulcahy and his board of directors has hired Amherst’s Lisa Davidson, who has run the Amherst Memorial Day Soccer Tournament, a major youth event similar to the Columbus Day Tournament in Nashua, for several years.

“They get about 300 teams,” Mulcahy said. “She has the experience to actually run the (event), anywhere from parking to setting up tables to keeping score, she has all that experience. That’s a big job. It’s going to be huge commitment for her. Being in the soccer community, I’ve known her forever. This isn’t her first rodeo.”

Derryfield School and Southern New Hampshire University remain the main sites for all the sports except track and field, which will be held Saturday, June 27 at Pinkerton Academy. Tennis will also take place only on that Saturday.

Opening ceremonies remain slated for Thursday, June 25, but there will actually be competition played prior to that. Because of some major out-of-state lacrosse events that weekend, the preliminary lacrosse games will be held Monday and Wednesday, June 22 and 24, with the championship round following the opening ceremonies that Thursday.

Mulcahy and his group also received an informal blessing from the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, which has tricky by-laws with school athletes competing in non-school events, even in the summer.

Meetings in January began to make sure eligibility of the athletes would be preserved. Some athletic directors were concerned over the winter, but according to Mulcahy, NHIAA Executive Director Jeff Collins sent out an email to athletic directors to state that thus far the Granite State Games are in compliance. The NHIAA can’t officially endorse it, however, as they don’t do that for any non-NHIAA athletic endeavors, even All-State teams.

“I feel much better about all that,” Mulcahy said.

“Coaches and kids just have to make sure they know the rules,” Bishop Guertin Athletic Director Pete Paladino said. “The coaches have to make sure they comply with the 25 percent rule (no more than 25 percent of a team can be from a coach’s school team).

“But I think it’s viable, if it’s done well, and Pat has done a good job organizing this. It’s another opportunity for kids in the state to showcase themselves and their abilities.”

Mulcahy said he’s receiving emails from a lot of student athletes who missed or had just heard of the tryouts, so coaches are keeping some roster spots open.

“We want to give those kids an opportunity,” he said.

There are some local coaches involved. For example, Merrimack’s Tim Goodridge (boys) and Courtney Cheetham (girls) are coaching the Southern basketball teams; Hollis Brookline coach Danielle Pelletier is coaching the Southern girls lacrosse squad; Souhegan’s Cathy Merra and former Nashua track standout Stephanie Roy are involved with the Southern track teams, and former Milford tennis coach Paul Burkhardt is coaching the Southern girls team.

Financially, Mulcahy’s group which includes regional directors, a full board, staff interns, etc., is plugging along. The budget is $90,000, and the Games has raised at least $50,000 of it with several corporate sponsors. Where will the rest come from? Some from a fee for each athlete that makes a team to compete, which can be as much as $100, depending on the sport.

Mulcahy first was going to charge a tryout fee, but to encourage participation, changed it. Now, however, in its place will be admission charges for fans to the events.

“We decided to do that only because we decided against the tryout fees,” Mulcahy said. “We have to make up that money somehow.

“We should hopefully be OK. We’re still soliciting sponsors, whether it be for dollars or some other way to help.”

The athletes will receive a parade shirt, uniform, “and obviously the coaching they are going to receive,” he said.

Scholarships will also be given out, $1,000 each to a boy and girl in each sport.

Mulcahy’s group sends out emails to college athletic directors in the northeast, reminding them of the Games. One is also sent out weekly to New Hampshire high school athletic directors, and another weekly email sent to all the varsity high school coaches in New Hampshire.

“Now that the infrastructure is in place, now we have to put on the event,” Mulcahy said. “It’s crazy. It’s been a tremendous amount of work. But without our board, our directors, our coaches, they’re all basically donating their time. Without their help, there’s no way this would happen.”