It's amazing that Doug Ames has anything left to take with him into retirement because he left it all behind on the court, on the field, on the course, in the halls, in his office — almost anywhere a Newfane student, and especially student-athlete, might go.
As the co-founder and inaugural president of Section VI's historic Unified Sports League and longtime local coach, physical education instructor and athletics director at Newfane High School, Ames will retire next week after 37 years — 14 as Panthers' AD — leaving behind a generous legacy of inclusiveness, progressiveness and endless opportunity at one of Niagara County's smallest schools.
His final day on the job is Wednesday.
Newfane superintendent of schools Mike Baumann said he's not sure how the district's going to replace him.
“In many ways, Doug is the face of Newfane,” Baumann said. “It's hard trying to put a value on what he's done for us, not only in his role in bringing Unified Sports to the area, but he’s done a great job in reaching out to the community as a whole, making Newfane incredibly competitive in so many areas. His retirement is well deserved and well earned.”
Ames' coaching resume is impressive in itself, with 33 years as the Panthers' golf coach, 22 years of wrestling, 19 years of softball, three years of football at Lockport, three years of softball at Starpoint and a one-year stint as cross country head coach at Newfane.
“It was one of those things — when I got hired, they said, ‘Here's a roster, a whistle and a clipboard, and oh, by the way, you started yesterday,’ ” Ames said.
Among the many progressive ideas Ames went all-in on was the historic first-ever night football games in consecutive seasons (2016-17), drawing close to 2,000 fans in both contests. At the time, Ames said it was the largest crowds he had ever seen at a Newfane sports contest.
When the idea for a Unified Sports League was bounced around, Ames carried the torch proudly, surrounded himself with great coaches and a handful of other eager ADs and built a program that's the class of all New York state. Though he's retiring, Ames will continue on with running the Unified Sports basketball and bowling leagues, as well as assigning officials.
Special Olympics Unified Sports is an inclusive program that combines athletes with intellectual disabilities and those without on sports teams for training and competition.
Newfane, along with district neighbors Lockport, Starpoint, Clarence, Frontier and Cheektowaga, were the first high schools in Western New York to initiate the Unified League four years ago. Today's impressive number is 26 and counting.
Ames credited his father, Robert Ames, the retired Lockport AD, with giving him “good guidance” over the years.
“He said, ‘If you're going to do it, do it 100 percent,” Ames said about accepting the Newfane teaching position nearly four decades ago. He said, ‘Get involved and surround yourself with good people. Let them coach and good things will happen.’ ”
Ames said his original intention was to leave quietly, but that never happened.
“I was hoping just to ride out into the sunset, but the elementary teachers are putting on a retirement party for me,” Ames said.
“I've had a good darn ride and I've enjoyed it with some great coaches and players and teams here at Newfane. Now, it's time to get off the train and let someone else conduct.”
Follow veteran local sports reporter and editor John D'Onofrio at @JohnD'Onofrio7.