By ALEX SPONSELLER After seeing the fall season cancelled outright, middle school sports will return for an abbreviated winter season. Schools will be allowed to offer boys and girls basketball, with practices beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Games will
By ALEX SPONSELLER After seeing the fall season cancelled outright, middle school sports will return for an abbreviated winter season.
Schools will be allowed to offer boys and girls basketball, with practices beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Games will begin during the first week of February and will likely be played until the first week of March. Schedules have not been created to this point, but teams are expected to play roughly 5-8 regular season contests. There will not be any playoffs at the conclusion of the regular season.
Wrestling, which middle schools typically offer in the winter, has yet to be approved by the Rhode Island Department of Health, so RIPCOA is aiming for a spring wrestling season. RIPCOA as well as the Rhode Island Interscholastic League have considered various modifications for wrestling, including making it an outdoor sport for the next season of play.
Johnston athletic director and RIPCOA board member Keith Cory does not expect to see the league implement any significant gameplay alterations, but does expect there to be some level of change elsewhere this winter season.
“We’re trying to be a little more proactive with protection at the middle school level. We have not decided on (fan attendance) yet, we don’t expect to make any rule changes within the game since changing them for potentially a five or six game season would not make much sense. We’ll stick with the rules as is, the only difference may be that we spread kids out on the bench or only allow 15 kids on the team where in the past teams have had up to 25 guys on their roster,” said Cory.
When it comes to the postseason, Cory and the board also felt that between the time constraints of the schedule as well as many schools already electing to forego the winter season, it would have been tough to justify creating a playoff bracket.
“We thought the biggest thing was giving kids the opportunity to play, so if coaches are thinking about playoffs, they may not be spreading the playing time around as much. It was between the schedule and trying to maintain the idea that middle school sports are about opportunity, not just winning,” Cory said. “We want to offer sports to our schools and then let them make the decision. There are about 10 schools that played last year that chose not to offer basketball this year because they did not feel it was safe, which is also part of the reason we chose to not have playoffs.”
Although the landscape is still a bit uneven as the season approaches, Cory believes that the league is in a better spot to offer sports than it was back in September and looks forward to getting back in action.
“We were all set to go through with (fall sports) but the board was a bit conflicted. The issue was that middle schools were in pods, with the same 10-15 kids in each class, but having sports would then throw them in with kids from different classes then have them compete against competition from other schools, so the principals really felt that it didn’t make sense to make these strides to keep them safe on busses and in classrooms but then put them in a situation it was not as safe,” said Cory. “Our priority is to keep these kids safe. Although schools are still in pods, we have systems in place to make it work and we wanted to at least be able to offer it to schools.”