MY PITCH

What does latest RIIL update mean for future?

By ALEX SPONSELLER
Posted 9/9/20

On Friday, the state and Rhode Island Interscholastic League announced that fall sports will be played this fall, with practices beginning on Sept. 21 and regular season games coming two weeks after. The big news however, was that football and volleyball

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MY PITCH

What does latest RIIL update mean for future?

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On Friday, the state and Rhode Island Interscholastic League announced that fall sports will be played this fall, with practices beginning on Sept. 21 and regular season games coming two weeks after.

The big news however, was that football and volleyball would likely be played in the spring. The second biggest piece of news, at least in my opinion, is that sports like soccer and field hockey will be played with restrictions. 

Here are some of my thoughts on each bit of information.

In terms of football and volleyball being postponed … that was not at all a surprise to me. In fact, I pretty much expected it.

Football is a full-contact sport that also carries the largest roster sizes and hosts the largest number of fans each Friday night. Having 30-40 kids typically crammed onto a sideline, in the locker room, then on the field tackling one another with the stands jammed-packed, I can see why it was a tough sell.

As for volleyball, all COVID-19 studies have pointed toward the spread being much easier indoors than outdoors, not that that is breaking news for any illness, but overall, I can also see why the state and league would be hesitant to jam hundreds of people into an enclosed gym. 

I’ve said this before. Do I believe that each of these sports could be safely played if the right protocols were enforced and followed? I do. But at the same time, I do not blame the league for choosing the path it did, even if other states continue forward with these sports.

I will say though, one thing that I do find a bit ridiculous is that we are afraid of filling the stands at outdoor facilities, but have no issue with having kids crammed into a classroom to learn? I understand that many schools are going to continue with distance learning, some are doing the hybrid approach, but either way, there are some inconsistencies with this debate that we will continue to go over for the next few months. 

What will this mean for football and volleyball moving forward?

In terms of volleyball, I’d expect it to be largely the same in the early spring as it would be in the fall. Literally the only difference will be the time of year it is being played, but that is not much of an issue in my eyes.

Football on the other hand could get a bit messy … literally.

We all know how New England springs work. You pretty much don’t have one, March and April often are just a continuation of winter and May gets hot and feels like summer. But in this case, I do have some concerns regarding field conditions in March and April.

Football is a tough sport with tough players. Even in perfect playing conditions, injuries happen and fields get torn up. It comes with the territory.

However, March and April are probably the two worst months of the year when it comes to that. I believe between player safety and school departments having to maintain these fields that it could become an issue. Not enough to jeopardize the season, but enough to be a headache at times.

The reason for this third season is to ensure that kids will not have to choose between sports if they are multi-sport athletes. As much of a whiner as I am, I have nothing but good things to say about this model considering the circumstances.

Since March, the pandemic has been unpredictable and unforgiving. It’s been crazy on so many levels. So to potentially be able to play a full slate of sports this school year, even if the schedules are flipped flopped, I believe will be a nice accomplishment for the league and its member schools. 

Now, the second topic.

It looks as though cross country and tennis will be played with little to no restrictions, but soccer and field hockey will be different.

The rules have not been firmly established so I am just going off of rumors and proposed plans. But it looks like certain rules in the gameplay will be different, for example, no throw-ins for soccer, no intentional contact in either, things like that.

Similar to my tone a few paragraphs ago, I feel that if adjusting rules such as these is the worst part about how this fall season is going to look, then that is fine by me.

Of course, we want to see these sports be played as close to the normal as possible. This is not a good thing to see these rule changes. But once again, considering the circumstances, I’ll take it. And you should too. Now, if the game is going to look entirely different, that is a different story. I guess we will have to wait and find out in the coming weeks. 

I am being a bit erratic here, but one more item that intrigues me is how this will affect college recruiting.

Obviously, if all sports are played then all athletes will have a chance to be scouted and looked at. I do wonder though how a senior playing football in the spring will handle having to turn around and play fall ball right away. Will schools be forced to make late pitches to players? Will kids have to adjust their college plans based on not having tape for colleges to look at in the fall? Will football be too taxing on the body to play two seasons in a six-month span?

This latest update is bittersweet, for sure. On the one hand, it is exciting to take another step closer to having sports back and getting back to normal. On the other hand, this pandemic continues to push us and it looks like the ripple effect will continue for quite some time.

Let’s make the most of it.

sports, RIIL

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