By Kevin Redding
For years, Rocky Point High School physical education teacher Dan Spallina had a blank canvas in the form of an old weight room-turned-football storage space. But this past February, with the help of volunteers and supporters — including parents, students and faculty members — he completed and unveiled a state-of-the-art sports team room in the space’s footprint to be used for video breakdowns of players’ performances, halftime meetings, team gatherings and other school events.
As head coach of the girls lacrosse program, Spallina, a Rocky Point graduate, recalled visiting the room to pick up his players’ uniforms in 2015 and envisioned something better for the school’s athletes in the cramped and underutilized area. As the student-athletes were often relegated to unused classrooms, the hallways or the athletic field for meetings and team-building exercises, Spallina thought a more suitable space could be built in the spot — a plac for “collaboration and camaraderie.”
“I just thought, what if?” Spallina said.
So, in fall 2016, after receiving approval from the board of education, he rounded up a small, determined band of parent volunteers, with the help of the district’s athletic director Charles Delargy, to help configure, spackle and paint the space. Spallina said the volunteers regularly pitched in at night, after their full-time jobs and daughters’ lacrosse games, to help bring the roughly $4,700 project to light. Even a couple of players helped with painting.
“When I say dedication, I mean dedication,” Spallina said. “The volunteers just wanted to help out and be a part in it. In my eyes, it was simply amazing.”
Together, they transformed a room previously used by teams to watch gameplay videos on a small television or an old projector against a white wall into a clean, open facility equipped with a full HD 4K projector, video screen, stadium seating and strip lights on step-down levels. The new complex has also been decorated with 3-D wood objects, framed inspirational quotes and artwork of the Eagles emblem and American flag.
“To have an idea, then see it being brought to life is incredible,” said Spallina, who presented the new room during a special celebration event in late February alongside Delargy. “My hope is that every athlete that steps into the room feels the sense of pride that it took to build. This is a truly special community and togive the student-athletes a room like this can only be positive.”
Delargy said when he came to the district a year and a half ago, he and Spallina quickly saw eye to eye about the room’s potential.
“One of the first things I did was stress with the teams and coaches about how helpful video is to prepare for games and for general improvement — and the storage area was the perfect place to do something like that,” Delargy said. “It turned out to be such a nice community project and the coaches and students are all extremely happy, because now they have a place to go. And with the 4K projector — it’s night and day.”
John Bellissimo, the parent of senior lacrosse player Christina Bellissimo and one of the lead volunteers who helped design the room, also noted the importance of the new facility, stating he feels every school district should have a dedicated space like the one at Rocky Point for its student-athletes.
“Of course, our job as parents is to provide our kids with every opportunity to be the best they can be, and help bring the goodness out of them,” Bellissimo said. “So, by having this team room, it’s going to foster the team spirit, togetherness and confidence, and really push these kids to understand what it means to work as a team. The feedback from the kids is that they love it. Because it’s new, nobody else has had it — it’s theirs. This is the room they needed.”