A tough, but proper, decision

Posted 4/29/20

In what was an expected move, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League officially cancelled the 2020 spring sports season last week after Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced that schools would continue distance learning for the remainder of the

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A tough, but proper, decision

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In what was an expected move, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League officially cancelled the 2020 spring sports season last week after Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced that schools would continue distance learning for the remainder of the school year.

Like I said, it seemed inevitable, the writing was on the wall.

Before I get into expressing my disappointment, let me first start by saying that this was the right call. COVID-19 cases are not ceasing and the spread is not slowing down, at least not enough to end the push on social distancing and whatnot. As much as I was holding out hope, and as much as I think there were possible solutions, at the end of the day, this decision was the right one. A tough pill to swallow, but the right call.

Now, I feel horrible for the kids, especially the seniors.

For the seniors that do not intend on playing in college, this was their last year to compete in high school and enjoy that experience with their friends.

High school sports build relationships, friendships, and experiences that last a lifetime for kids. To not have that opportunity, especially in the final year which is such a special time in their lives, is heartbreaking.

On the other side, for the kids that will be playing sports in college, this is a huge missed opportunity.

Whether it be honing in their skills, making last-minute adjustments, or just simply getting more reps in, senior year is a massive year in development for kids going on to the next level. It is their last chance to truly sharpen their skills and be as prepared as possible. Of course, all seniors will be in the same boat, but still, it is a shame that these kids will have to put sports on hold during such a critical time in their athletic development.

One last group of seniors that I feel sorry for as well are the ones that may not have gotten much playing time in their first three years but were poised to make an impact in their senior seasons.

When you look at Bishop Hendricken for example, a school with numbers and competitive programs, it is not uncommon to see juniors not crack the starting lineup. Even in some public schools, some kids for one reason or another sometimes don’t truly hit the field until their senior year. To see some kids not be able to get their time in the limelight is sad.

Then there are the freshmen, not that I don’t feel for the sophomores and juniors because of course I do, but the seniors and the freshmen are feeling the effects the most.

In what should have been their first year at the high school level, freshmen are going to have to put things on hold and shift their focus toward their sophomore year. That opportunity to get their feet wet, get to know their coaches and teammates is now gone. That lost year will likely create a ripple effect for the next few years, nothing significant, but obviously these programs are better off with their players getting a full three years prior to senior year.

On the bright side, kids are resilient. There’s no other way of putting it, this situation is terrible, but I know these seniors will hold their heads high and look forward to what is next whether it is on the field or off. The younger kids will roll with the punches and also put their best foot forward.

I have no doubt that we will be OK and will get through this crisis, despite the bumps and bruises we will take along the way.

Last week, the Johnston community lost longtime basketball coach Dan Mazzulla after a lengthy fight with cancer.

This is a big blow to the community, but one of those beautiful opportunities to celebrate a life that meant so much to so many people.

At 61 years old, Mazzulla deserved to live a longer life, especially with his kids doing such great things and fulfilling their potential. His son Joe, for example, is in his first season as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics. His other kids are/were great athletes as well and have lovely, young families that he loved so much.

This is a tragic loss, and one that will sting the entire state of Rhode Island for quite some time. Even outside of Johnston, Mazzulla and his family have reached so many people, especially in the basketball community.

Dan missed last basketball season due to his health, but I was fortunate enough to get to know him the season prior, my first year in Rhode Island. In the handful of meetings I had with him, he was always very friendly, always very pleasant, invested in his team and players. I have nothing but respect for him and coaches that exemplify those qualities, coaches that care about their players’ success, not for the wins, but for the sake of their well-being. He truly cared.

Appreciate what you have, especially in the world we are currently living with. Never take your health for granted. Rest in peace, Dan.

Lastly, I was one of the many Patriots fans that was underwhelmed with the team’s draft. The draft overall was great and was exactly what the sports world needed during these times.

For the Patriots, specifically … yuck.

At the end of the day, the Patriots traded out of the first round and ended up with a Division II safety, two defensive players up front that are mid-round talents, two developmental tight ends, then a couple of low-end linemen.

At best, I see this draft class as just added depth to the roster. Personally, I do not expect it to have much of an impact next year. I think if even one or two of these players have big roles in the future, that will be the best case scenario.

But, I’m no Bill Belichick. We’ll see how it goes.

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