FALCONER - Students on the recently merged Falconer-Frewsburg JV and varsity basketball teams had a chance to square off against a team hailing from the other side of the world.
On Friday, the Prince Alfred College basketball team from Adelaide, Australia, paid a visit to Falconer in order to learn more about American culture - as well as share elements of their own culture - before the culminating JV and varsity matchup between the PAC and Falconer teams.
Dave Nelson, Falconer's athletic director, said the visit has been a unique and rewarding experience for both parties. He said the Australian team arrived at the middle/high school in the morning, and Frewsburg players joined their Falconer teammates in giving them a presentation on how the Falconer-Frewsburg merger came to be. Each visiting PAC player was then teamed up with a pair of Falconer students, who showed them the daily routine of an American student by bringing them along to their classes and lunch period.
Charles Baker, a member of the Prince Alfred College basketball team, presents Falconer Central School students with factual information about Australia during the team’s visit to the middle/high school Friday.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
The Australian students then reciprocated in the cultural exchange of information by presenting a slideshow of facts about Australia, Prince Alfred College and how their education system works.
"Both sides were intrigued about how some things are similar and others are different," Nelson said. "The biggest thing I saw was, after the PowerPoint presentation, the kids all just basically talked to each other for about 45 minutes. It didn't really matter that they grew up half a world apart from each other, they're all kids and they wanted to know things about each other's culture."
One of the PAC players who participated in the presentation, Charles Baker, said he noticed some of the more prominent differences between Australian and American culture manifesting in the classroom and community setting.
"The general atmosphere has been really friendly," said Baker, who plays small forward and power forward. "The classes are quite similar in some respects, but it looks like you guys have a lot more diverse classes. Our classes are probably more specific in detail and general in nature. Also, this is a smaller town, so there's a lot more of a strong community feeling. (Adelaide) has about a million people. So I'm not sure if its just because we're here and the school's very vibrant, but everyone's been super nice and interested in us."
According to Steve Johnston, a physics and engineering teacher at Chautauqua Lake Central School, this is the fifth time PAC has sent members of its basketball team to Western New York schools. Johnston, a former Falconer teacher and PAC basketball coach, initiated the first tour in 2000 as an educational opportunity for students of both cultures.
"It's been just an outstanding success," Johnston said. "The kids gain so much from it educationally, and from a sports standpoint."
Johnston said he married and started a family during his time in Australia. When he planned the initial tour, he used his connections to the Western New York area in order to get the team into area schools to visit.
"The tour was so successful that (PAC) wanted me to do another, so we started working on a second one," Johnston said.
In 2003, however, he was offered a position to teach at Chautauqua Lake and he moved back to the area. At that point, his assistant coach took over the reins of the PAC basketball program, and has organized each of the subsequent tours through this current one.