Sayre Recreation has been a Valley institution for decades. When Dana Twigg was a kid, he enjoyed his experiences in the Sayre Rec programs in which he participated.
As an adult, Twigg wanted to give Valley youth the experiences he had.
“I wanted to give back. I had such a great childhood here,” Twigg said. “We lived on Stedman Street, not a block from the school, and then to have a career here and be able to do something like that for the school just felt good.”
In the 40-or-so years that Twigg has led the Sayre Recreation program, he’s done that and more. With the program at a high point, Twigg is retiring from his post.
“Dana’s so in-tune with keeping the kids active,” former Athletic Secretary Diane Nobles said. “It’s sad, but we all have to move on.”
She worked with Dana for 18 years and noticed the difference Twigg made to the program.
“Once Dana took it over, they had a lot of fun. A lot of survivor series and the kids really enjoyed doing all that stuff.”
“I grew up here and I remember going to Rec when I was a kid,” said Twigg. “It was kind of a big thing. I wrestled for recreation back when it was a Rec. program. I think at the time Tom McCabe was the Rec director back in the 1970s.”
“Then I went away to school, taught at Troy for a couple of years and came back to Sayre,” Twigg continued. “They still had Rec, I think Neil Beisher was the director then. He got out of it and as a very young teacher, I had the opportunity to get involved in Rec. Being an art teacher and being involved in sports my whole life — I wasn’t coaching a lot at the time; I think I was assistant football coach or assistant track coach — I wasn’t coaching wrestling so I took a chance and got involved with Rec.
“If you want to describe him in three words, it’s Sayre, Sayre, Sayre,” said former Sayre High School Assistant Principal Dan Polinski. “He was the kind of student Sayre wanted when he was a student, the kind of teacher Sayre wanted, coach Sayre always wants in its coaching staff, the kind of coach (and) kind of athletic director you want leading and giving advice on athletics.”
Polinski also said that Twigg’s contributions went well beyond the Rec program.
“Everything, certainly at athletic director, coach of a couple of sports, winning coach of a couple of sports and a player himself back in high school, (he was all about Sayre),” said former Assistant Principal Dan Polinski. “He has check marks in all of the boxes for all of that. He’s probably one of the best teachers to ever cross the threshold of Sayre High School, loved by his students, very creative. He got kids to do things you would never expect high school students to do, was an award-winning teacher and got his kids to win awards.”
Polinski said that what separated Twigg from the rest was his leadership skills.
“That’s the beauty of great leadership. He got great buy-in from everybody because he took intake. He wasn’t ‘my way or the highway.’ Dana Twigg listened to what people wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. He was a good leader in the sense that he listened to the people who worked for him and then responded,” Polinski said. “When somebody had an idea that was better than Dana’s idea, Dana Twigg wasn’t ‘Well, it wasn’t my idea so we’re not running with it.’ Dana Twigg will take any good idea and run with it and he will make it fly. As the old expression goes, ‘he could make a washing machine fly.’ That’s Dana Twigg. He had that kind of skill package.”
Polinski described the Rec program as the “pearl of it all.”
“That was something that isn’t an automatic,” Polinski stated. “When you’re in high school, sports are automatic and teachers are there, but to have a recreation program that not only functions, but functions incredibly well, brings kids back — the students who are in charge of it as well as loads of kids who want to be involved in it — to have it be as successful year after year. Those creative juices from Dana the art teacher were really essential, I think, in making sure the recreation program had different topics every year, they went at it different year, there was a lot of variety every year.”
“The proof in the pudding is always in the tasting,” Polinski continued. “Kids and helpers came back year-after-year-after-year because it was a terrific program and I would say a terrific program because of Dana Twigg and Rich Krall. Both of them are extraordinarily student-focused and teachers (Krall’s a science teacher), and understand what makes kids tick, what kids like and what kids want and how to deliver all they like and want — and need — in an orderly, organized fashion.”
One thing that a lot of people don’t know is that Twigg’s recreation program — along with those in Athens and Waverly — played a big role in Halloween parades through the years and even operated the Valley Pool — now the Sayre High School pool — for years.
“Keeping the pool open for all of those years was a big deal to me,” said Twigg. “There were times financially where the pool, the philosophy and the history of the pool; I really tried to keep that in the forefront to the community. We tried to make it be something that was offered to all three communities all the time. It wasn’t like it was our pool and we got special advantages. We tried to make it be for everybody. To have lifeguards be certified all the time and have a pool manager and working with the school — all of those little pieces to all of those programs — looking back, it was a great experience.”
Twigg said that he was happy that the school district was always so supportive.
“They did everything they could,” said Twigg of the Sayre School District. “School districts are school districts. There were times when I wish we had better stuff, better equipment, a bigger schedule and things like that, but for what it was I think everybody tried to make it as good as it could be.
“That’s another piece that I’d love to share now. It’s hard to share when it’s going on. I think when kids are that age, in this little community here, especially when you have towns on either side, I think parents, more than you would imagine would stop me in a store or stop me on the street and be so appreciative of what we’re trying to do to to give those kids something to do that was meaningful, worthwhile and fun,” Twigg added.
With all of those good vibes, not having the program in 2020 hit Twigg hard.
“(As) you can imagine not having summer rec this summer, just crushed me,” Twigg said. “We had been doing this forever. I think summer rec was going on for 35 of those 40 years, so we made some attempts — really struggled — to try to do it and we came up with a way that we thought would be safe. It wouldn’t be what Rec had always been, but it’s very difficult for people right now. I think they need Rec. I don’t know what the solution is right now. I told the school I’d be more than happy to share what little I know with whoever takes over and takes the reins this thing.”
Twigg also stated that he wants to see the Sayre Recreation program continue and even grow.
“I don’t think it would be a good idea to abandon Rec. I think that, whatever form it takes, every community needs something like Rec.”
Nobles sums it up well.
“It was a good run. He enjoyed that position immensely. He really enjoyed making sure that these kids had some kind of summer activities. In the winter, basketball and he just thought about the kids.”
Editor’s Note: For more on Twigg and the Sayre Recreation Program, see Tuesday’s Times.