by Julia Puciato
Casey Brown, an Agricultural Business BT student at SUNY Cobleskill, means it when he says he’s compassionate about the Woodsmen team. Brown, who transferred to the College as a Junior, wasn’t exactly new to the college experience but he didn’t know anyone at Cobleskill. Joining the club, he says, was a great way for him to start meeting people. “Once you start, you can’t stop. It seems like such a simplistic sport but once you get going in it there’s no stopping.”
It was also a way to expand his circle of friends to those he might not otherwise have come in much contact with on campus, since the 30 students on the team are enrolled in seven to eight various academic majors. “Whether it’s business, culinary, ag business, animal science, dairy, there is such a broad range of majors on the team that it is a great networking opportunity,” Brown said.
Business Administration majors have even brought a lot to the team, he noted, even though he would not have expected to see them with a saw in hand, adding, “It’s cool that it’s such a diverse sport that anyone can get into it at any time. It’s such an obscure sport that once people start watching it their reaction is, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this’. And seeing someone swing a 5 lb axe in between their legs is always an eye catcher.”
Members are allowed to practice as much as possible, but there must be an advisor on site at all times due to safety concerns and liability issues. Linda Serdy, Russel Holmes, Mike Mackaski, and George Wilkinson are the primary advisors. Volunteer advisors include Dave John, Chris Sivash, who are great competitors in the sport and also bring in coaching skills. The Club is broken into individual teams—Mens 1, Womens 1, Jack and Jill—each consisting of six people, with the Jack and Jill team is made up of three men and three women. The group splits up into teams to practice or they split up into events, since team events help to build chemistry.
“It shows you how to get along with people and when to fight for something and when not to,” he explained, adding that it also helps with career preparation. With the various positions that include officers, team captains, equipment managers, meet planners, and other positions, Brown says it allows members to learn leadership, time management and people skills.
Sarah Teed, who is studying Culinary Arts, says that everyone has a leadership role because “you have to be able to be someone who can step up and say this is what needs to happen and this is what needs to be done.”
Coming in as a freshman, Rob Weitze, who is studying Agricultural Engineering, admits he wasn’t as passionate about the club at first, because he had less responsibilities. After becoming equipment manager, however, and seeing the amount of time it takes to complete tasks, such as handling and grinding axes, it made him anxious to do more to help. Weitze also plans team meets and has seen a lot of progress after putting in so much effort. He says that teamwork is his biggest lesson. “When you’re out competing there is no ‘I’ in team. You have to come together for a team score and if one person slacks it could be the difference between first and second. It’s all about teamwork.”
Lindsey Leisenring, an Agricultural Business major, explained that “the Woodsmen Club is what got me into the mainstream of things on campus, it got me involved. It helped me get comfortable and transition from my old school.” She first signed up for the fun of it but soon saw how extreme the competition was. “It made me want to get better each day and want to improve our competition time,” she said.
But it is not only a matter of working together that makes the experience meaningful to her. “This whole club is a family,” she says. “We take care of each other and show each other respect, on the field, in competition, in classes too.”
Competing teams actually support each other and give each other tips. “We have members from other schools that come over and cheer us on when we are competing against them,” Leisenring said. “It’s something you don’t really see anywhere else. You have to be in it to understand.” The cooperative spirit does not begin and end with other Woodsmen teams. The Club gives its assistance to other clubs and groups in the campus and local communities by offering to clear trees or perform other services.
With an interest in the equine industry and plans to head to Texas for more exposure, Leisenring credits the club with helping her reach out to people and network through the Agricultural Business industry and other outdoor-oriented people, as well.
Academic requirements push the members to keep doing well. “We tell the club members to focus on school, especially early on in their college career,” Brown says, and as a result he has learned a lot of time management skills. Over time he figured out when to work on Woodsmen and when to work on other studies. Teed says she also manages to participate in three other clubs.
This year, the Club has the honor of hosting the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Northeast Collegiate Qualifier at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds in conjunction with their Spring Conclave, which has the added bonus of having their college showcased in a mini-feature on ESPNU.
“I cannot believe this year is over and our club is at our superbowl, the STIHL® Collegiate Competition,”said advisor Linda Serdy. “We will go out onto the field and perform as one, working together like a well oil machine, giving each other encouragement and always remembering that we are SUNY Cobleskill students and as representatives of our college we will do our best. At the end of the day we have our memories and look forward toward the future where next fall we will begin again.”