MY PITCH

Thoughts on fall sports plan

By ALEX SPONSELLER
Posted 8/13/20

Last week the Rhode Island Interscholastic League unveiled its tentative plans for the fall sports season. Essentially, and this is all subject to change, the league will open practices in the second week of September with the regular season beginning in

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MY PITCH

Thoughts on fall sports plan

Posted

Last week the Rhode Island Interscholastic League unveiled its tentative plans for the fall sports season.

Essentially, and this is all subject to change, the league will open practices in the second week of September with the regular season beginning in the first week of October. The sports that will be played in the fall include cross country, tennis and game day cheerleading.

From there, the league would add another season in between the standard winter and spring which would finish the rest of the fall sports including football, soccer, field hockey and volleyball.

Now, like I said, the league said that none of this is official and likely will not be cemented in place for another few weeks and assuming there are no significant developments in the state’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Overall, there are some aspects of this proposed plan that I like and agree with, and others not so much.

Before I get into my breakdown, this plan was largely based on the protocols created by the state and the guidelines that it has put in place. Point being, there was only so much the league could do and many of my gripes are not the league’s fault. It is making the best of a tough situation and I am just spitballing here.

What I do like about this plan is the most basic aspect: there will be sports this fall.

Back in the spring and even early summer, I never thought that fall sports would be affected by the pandemic. I figured that we would be far enough removed and would have enough systems in place to ensure a full slate of fall sports.

The last few weeks have been different and my optimism has dwindled a little bit more each week. Although at this point there are sports that I do think would be tough to pull off, like football for example, there are definitely sports that should be much more manageable, like tennis.

Sure, I would love to see all fall sports be played on time. I even will go as far as to say that I believe the league could pull it off, even football. I honestly believe that we could play a full slate of fall sports without major outbreaks.

But in reality, some sports are more risky than others, so I will happily take some sports than no sports and I am happy that the RIIL is looking to provide the kids missing out a season later on in a way that would prevent them from having to choose between sports if they are multi-sport athletes.

Another thing that I liked about this plan was the fact that the league said that it would allow sports to be played regardless if schools are in the classroom or are virtual this fall.

Some people have complained, saying that kids should not be able to play a sport if they are not able to be present in the classroom. For a while, it looked like that would be the route that the league would be going as well.

However, last week it was announced that it would be up to the school to decide ultimately, but the RIIL would not step in.

I get why some people feel that kids should have to be physically present at school to compete, I honestly understand the point. But in my eyes, there is a massive difference between cramming a thousand kids into an enclosed space versus 30 or 40 onto an outdoor field. There is still some risk, but it is much, much smaller. I feel like kids should be allowed to compete regardless if they are learning in person or online so I agree with the league’s decision to not have that be the determining factor.

Now, what I do not like about this plan is how few sports are expected to play this fall. Once again, the state posted its own rules and guidelines so this is not an indictment on the league. I look at soccer for example … sure, there is some contact in play, but it is completely different from full contact sports like football and hockey. Same with field hockey, these are not contact sports and I don’t see them being much more of a risk than the other sports expected to play.

Not to mention the fact that we all know how New England springs are. This extra season is supposed to begin in March … most years, the ground is either covered in snow or totally sloppy with mud at that point. Even April is a tough month at times.

Imagine trying to play field hockey and soccer on a ground like that? Where the ball needs to roll? Where kids need to be running, cutting? I like the idea of adding an extra season, but I feel like trying to kick things off in March will be a tall task.

The other thing that I question is transportation. Schools are expected to provide buses and rides for their players, but I do feel like that is risky.

Am I scared that there will actually end up being big outbreaks due to kids riding on buses together? No, I would guess things would be fine if all other protocols are obeyed. But I do feel like that is an actual risk … not a big one, but one large enough to consider. Not all families have their own transportation so there is really no sound solution, but to cram a bunch of people in a bus could get choppy.

For the most part, I like and agree with this plan, especially considering that there is really only so much the league and the state can do. This pandemic is not over, and unfortunately looks to be going strong still. This is a solid plan for a lousy situation, so hopefully things continue to improve and we can consider this another step in the right direction.

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