Even before his graduation from Cooperstown Central School in 1980, Dave Bliss was helping with youth sports, refereeing youth basketball games at the Clark Sports Center, and coaching there not long after graduation.
Bliss, the CCS softball coach and long-time Middlefield town supervisor, has been serving the areas’ children ever since. He was honored Monday for his service with the 2013 Fetterman Award.
“The only one question we all have about Dave winning this award is why hasn’t he won it sooner?” Jane Clark asked as she introduced Bliss at the award ceremony at the Otesaga.
Bliss has also coached basketball, soccer and baseball at various levels. He has been the CCS coach for 13 seasons, building the team into a top-level program. Last season, Cooperstown won its first league title, going undefeated in the regular season, and winning the Section Three, C-1 title.
In addition to his family and previous Fetterman winners, all three of Bliss’ assistant coaches and three of his current players attended the ceremony.
“You never are concerned about anything except what is in the best interest of the girls,” Glen Noto said, speaking for the softball program.
Bliss quoted Jackie Robinson in accepting the award, saying, “ ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.’ The other winners have had an impact on other’s lives. I am honored to be among them.”
“If you look at the other winners here, we all have something in common, and that is we all have gray hair” he joked, “but that is not surprising given what we do.”
Bliss thanks his assistants, the CCS teachers and administrators, Clark and the Clark Sports Center, and his family. He said growing up with six sisters prepared him for coaching girls. He thanked his deceased parents, Claud and Anna, his wife of 30 years, Kim, and their three children, Rachel, Eric and Ethan.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without her,” he said of Kim. “For all of those late dinners and unfinished projects, thank you for understanding.”
Rachel and Ethan Bliss are both Red Bursey Award winners for outstanding sportsmanship at CCS. Eric Bliss preferred performing arts to sports, but ironically he is the one who has played in the greatest sports venue.
“He sang the National Anthem in front of 30,000 people at a Texas Rangers game, which was an amazing thrill to see,” Bliss said.
“Seeing my own kids and others like these girls here grow into young adults has been very rewarding,” he continued.
Clark’s question drew vocal agreement from the members of the audience. A few minutes later, Bliss’ award drew tears from his oldest sister, Sandra Bliss.
“In addition to everything Jane said, he farms,” she said. “He made the decision not to go into teaching, but to keep the family farm, a tradition which has been in the family for 90 years. He raises beef cattle, sells hay, and he is great training horse. I consider him and my father to be horse whispers. He loves The Farmers’ Museum. He found a new horse for the museum, and when they had an unexpected opening there, he volunteered to train the new horse.
“He packs an awful lot into every day,” she continued.
The Fetterman Award is presented each year by the CSC and the Clark Foundation to honor someone who is “dedicated to serving local youth, especially in the area of athletics.” The traits the award is said to embody are “outstanding sportsmanship, inspired leadership and caring service.” The award is named for Patrick C. Fetterman, the late associate director of the sports center.