SPRINGVILLE — The following is a guest column by Springville Journal Sports Correspondent Dave DeLuca.
JUMP FOR IT — Billy Dickinson was also a most valuable player in basketball. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
In 2007, the Dickinson family took the approximately 6-hour drive from New York City to Western New York. Bill Dickinson brought his family to the area, because he had taken a job as athletic director at Springville-Griffith Institute. Dickinson and his wife Amy brought with them their son Billy and daughters Carrie and Jamie.
Upon arrival, everything felt normal, to the Dickinson family. While they were adjusting to their new community, school district and getting accustomed to the non-New York City accents of Springville residents, they liked it here. The peaceful countryside was new to them; Bill Dickinson even took his first-ever riding lawn mower for a spin, after the move.
In the fall, their son Billy, a seventh grader, at the time, led the Springville-Griffith Institute modified football team to an undefeated season, as the starting quarterback.
RUN THAT BALL — Billy Dickinson led the Springville-Griffith Institute varsity football team to Ralph Wilson stadium. Photo provided by the S-GI football department.
Little did the Dickinsons know their journey in the Springville community would be a roller-coaster ride. Along the way, the family experienced a series of bumps, bruises and life-threatening situations. The jabs and uppercuts would be overcome by the family of five, which used a common sense of humor and of tranquility, to persevere through whatever was thrown its way.
The elder Bill Dickinson was a star football and baseball player, at Mater Dei Prep in New Jersey. After graduation, he went on to play football and baseball at Gettysburg College. He then returned to coach football and baseball at Mater Dei, before coming to Springville as AD.
In the fall of 2009, he was stripped of his duties as athletic director at S-GI, which caused an immediate uproar, in the Springville community. The former AD was not permitted on school property, for a short time after his release, leaving him with having to watch his son Billy play quarterback for the junior varsity football team, from the road.
A few months later, Bill Dickinson was involved in a life-threatening car accident that required a number of surgeries and a long recovery. His wife Amy had to put food on the table, be there for her injured husband and raise three kids. In addition, Amy Dickinson gets up at the crack of dawn, to train as a marathon runner.
OUT OF THE PARK — Billy Dickinson played on varsity baseball, all four years. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
Bill Dickinson got up, dusted himself off and went on with his life. He was an assistant coach, for the Springville junior varsity football team, and was the head coach, for the junior varsity baseball team.
Two months ago, Amy Dickinson finished the Boston Marathon, 20 minutes prior to the Boston bombings.
Some families come closer together, by playing a board game or having a movie night. Not the Dickinsons. Unfortunate events attempted to run them off course, but they weren’t having it. Along the way, their son Billy must have been taking notes.
Billy Dickinson has morphed into a three-sport standout at Springville, starring on the football, basketball and baseball teams. While fighting through family ordeals, the athlete learned how to deal with adversity and channeled that toward athletics.
At the cusp of his senior year, Dickinson won the job as Springville’s starting quarterback, on the varsity team, taking over for Matt Wolcott. Dickinson was trying to fill the shoes of Wolcott, who captained the team to its first winning season in seven years. As a junior, Dickinson was a starting end and safety, for the team, but now it was his team, and he had the keys to the car.
If you asked him about the first four games of his senior year, he’d probably cringe, a little. Ask him about the rest of the season and his infectious smile will take over. Springville started the season 0 – 4, but Dickinson and the rest of the varsity Griffs made a tremendous turnaround, to get back to Ralph Wilson Stadium, for the first time, since 1997.
Who would you rather have in charge than a man that has a history of overcoming adversity? Although Springville fell to Alden in the Class B Championship game, Springville went from the outhouse to the penthouse, in 6 weeks.
“He made a decision, after that East Aurora game, that he may or may not confirm this, but he made the decision that he was going to put the team on his back,” said Coach John Sopko, about Dickinson’s leading the turnaround. “That was the difference, the rest of the way. What he did for the basketball team, what he did for the baseball team, he’s just a great kid; he’s just a great person.”
When Dickinson took on the challenge of being a team captain and face of the team, I don’t think he expected post-game interviews with The Buffalo News and Time Warner Cable. On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t think he expected having to attend three funerals, for teammates’ parents who passed away, during a 5-month span.
While shouldering more than just opponents, he led a team to persevere, through a difficult time. Adversity struck him and the rest of the team, and he did what mom and pop set, as an example.
His breakout football campaign brought upon him a number of awards. He was named first team Class B South honors and was named Class B South offensive most valuable player. Dickinson was also named to the All WNY scholar athlete team. He used his brains to not only read defenses, but was an honor student, in the classroom, with a 96 grade point average.
“It’s his personality that made him successful, here at Springville,” Sopko said. “He’s outstanding, in all regards. Looking at it as his former teacher, as his former coach, it’s an extreme pleasure, to be able to know Billy. It’s been an extreme pleasure to work with him. He’s highly critical of himself; he’s motivated towards excellence and he achieves a lot of perfection.”
On the basketball court, Dickinson was Springville’s leading scorer and his 45 3-pointers were good enough for second place, in Springville’s division.
“He definitely was the focus of opposing coaches,” said basketball Coach Frank Noeson. “He was played box and one, a few different times, this year. I think more importantly than him scoring, is how intelligent he is, on the court. He recognizes defenses and offenses immediately and helps his teammates adjust to situations.”
It’s tough to top what he did, in the fall and winter, but some would argue that baseball is the athlete’s best sport. Dickinson is one of a select few to play four years of varsity baseball. As a sophomore, he was named second team all-division and nearly broke the school record, for highest batting average, in one season. He was named a first-team all-star, as a junior and a senior. His career batting average rests at .409.
As a senior, his team finished the regular season a dismal 5 – 9, a disappointment for a team that returned a number of starters, from the year before. Dickinson responded, by putting on his blue dress and leading another Cinderella team on a deep playoff run. Springville entered the Section VI playoffs as a nine-seed and upset sixth seeded Eden, third seeded Olean, and second seeded Albion, before falling to top-seed Tonawanda, in the title game.
“I think Billy is an absolute leader,” said Coach Ron Tamraz. He did it on the football field; he did it on the basketball court and he did it on the baseball field. Everything he did, here at Springville, was done with hard work. I appreciate everything he’s done and his teammates appreciate it, too. He meant an awful lot, to our team.”
Dickinson will attend Ithaca College, next fall, and will major in sports management, while continuing his baseball career. Some could say that Dickinson leaves high school with two second place trophies. Others can look at the big picture, and see that he inspired a school. He ignited an athletic program that hasn’t seen enough success, in a number of years. He didn’t just win; he won during some of the toughest circumstances.
It’s rare to see a young man as humble and selfless as Dickinson. If he doesn’t go down as one of the best student athletes, to ever walk the halls of Springville-Griffith Institute, then who does? During his time at S-GI, he carried himself with distinct class and uncommon strength. Things were never perfect for him; things didn’t come easy. I think that’s what makes Billy, Billy.
“He’s the kind of player any coach would want,” Sopko said. “He’s the kind of student any teacher would want; he’s the kind of friend anyone would want and I would even think he’s the kind of son any parent would want.”
I’m sure that makes Bill and Amy very proud.