- By Jodie Wagner Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
National Signing Day rarely is a low-key affair at Dwyer High School.
There’s cake, there’s balloons, and there’s athletes. Usually lots of them.
The Palm Beach Gardens school typically signs a big class of student-athletes each spring — so many that in some years, the number of people at Dwyer’s annual Signing Day ceremony far outweighs the number of available chairs in the media center.
Last February, a record 21 student-athletes covering six sports signed national letters of intent on Signing Day. Eighteen signed at the school, while three others signed at their college campuses after enrolling early.
Signing Day is an opportunity to recognize student-athletes for their accomplishments on and off the field, Athletic Director Tom Pagley said.
That’s why Dwyer makes a big deal out of it.
“It’s special for the kids, because it’s definitely a feather in their cap,” Pagley said. “They get to use something that they love to do to further their education. As far as we’re concerned, that’s what academic-based athletics is all about. It’s about furthering your education and using your sport and your skills and your hard work to get to the next level.”
The school invites family members, coaches and teammates to the media center for the big day.
About half of each signing class is composed of football players, but it isn’t unusual to have up to a half-dozen other sports represented.
“Even though the official signing day for some of the other sports is a different date, we like to celebrate it on the same day, when we get the biggest bang for the buck, so to speak,” Pagley said. “We try to maintain the integrity of it.”
The school follows a specific set of guidelines when determining who gets to attend its signing ceremony.
Student-athletes are invited to participate only if they already have signed their letters of intent, or are firmly committed to sign with a specific school that day, or later.
Athletes who are undecided are asked to sign at another time.
“We ask the coach if the kid might be thinking of going to one school or the other,” Pagley said. “He’s got to have really signed, or be signing that day, or will be signing. It’s kind of an honor system, and it’s worked out. Nobody really abuses it. We want to recognize the kids, because it’s special that they get to continue their education using sports.”
Last year’s number of signees far eclipsed that in any of Pagley’s nine years as Dwyer’s athletic director.
This year, the school will come close to that figure. Pagley expects 19 student-athletes to attend National Signing Day ceremonies Wednesday.
These athletes, representing the Panthers’ baseball, soccer, softball, lacrosse and football teams, will sign their letters of intent at 10 a.m.
Like the athletes before them, each will autograph a special signing sheet — designed by the school — that lists their names, sports, and college with whom they plan to sign. The sheets are passed along the dais during the signing ceremony so that each athlete has the opportunity to sign them.
Afterward, the sheets are given to the student-athletes to keep as mementos, though school staff also grab them for their classrooms.
“It’s something that a lot of coaches and administrators keep on their wall,” Pagley said. “One of our coaches has every signing day sheet from when it started up on his wall. It’s kind of cool.”