SPORTS

Thoughts on RIIL guidelines

By ALEX SPONSELLER
Posted 9/24/20

We made it. High school sports are back in session with organized fall activities beginning this week. As we know, the only sports that will be played this season include boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, field hockey and cheerleading.

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SPORTS

Thoughts on RIIL guidelines

Posted

We made it.

High school sports are back in session with organized fall activities beginning this week. As we know, the only sports that will be played this season include boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, field hockey and cheerleading.

Last week, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League released its updated rule modifications and COVID guidelines for each respective sport, and overall, I was a bit relieved to see what the league came up with.

My original fear was that the new modifications and rule changes would drastically change the layout of each sport. Would I have taken different-looking sports over nothing at all? Yes, but to see these specifics laid out, it does not appear that that will be the case.

For all sports, players, coaches, spectators, officials all have to wear masks. Not really a surprise.

I do wonder if the masks will make a difference in performance. I know that they do not restrict one’s breathing at rest, but it will be interesting to see when kids are actually out there running around. From what I have heard from other states doing the same thing, the results have been largely positive. Overall, that does not seem like it will be an issue.

All parties must also maintain a distance of 6 feet between one another, and teams will no longer be doing post game handshakes. 

Each sport has its own rule tweaks and whatnot from there.

In soccer, the biggest rule change will regard throw ins and such. Essentially, players will not be allowed to touch the ball with their hands, excluding the keeper obviously. Tennis and field hockey will be largely, if not entirely the same in terms of gameplay, but the equipment will have to be regularly disinfected. 

Cross country will be a bit different, with staggered start times, distances and course layouts. There will also be fewer runners during regular season dual meets.

Perhaps the sport that took the biggest hit in terms of execution is cheerleading, which is now banning stunts, pyramids and lifts.

Like I said, this is all totally OK for me. It sure beats not having any of these sports back.

In terms of soccer, the kick ins instead of the standard throw in does not bother me one bit. I am not a soccer expert so what do I know … but I do not see how that will significantly impact the game, especially when each team will have to face the same adjustment. 

From there, cross country, field hockey and tennis appear to be untouched. Sure, there will have to be greater precautions taken in terms of disinfecting equipment and making sure people maintain a distance, but the gameplay should be pretty much identical to the normal.

Cheerleading, though, perplexes me.

I have no idea how a team can do a routine withouts the aforementioned items that have been banned. Sure, they can organize new dancing routines, but the stunts, lifts and pyramids are huge points of emphasis and can often make a team stand apart from the rest. Once again, I am also not an expert when it comes to cheerleading, but to the opposite effect of soccer, I do not see how coaches and cheerleaders can be happy about the modification. 

It will be interesting to see how these new rules affect things. But overall, I really don’t know how people outside of maybe cheerleading can take issue with these modifications.

When looking at the changes, what I will miss most will actually be the number of fans allowed in attendance. Kids will only be allowed to invite two people to each event and sites will be forced to limit the amount of spectators based on total capacity.

I understand it, I understand all of it. I really have no complaints. However, I will miss seeing the stands full, I will miss the student sections, I will miss the atmosphere.

I am sure the kids will miss it too, as well as the fans that are not even athletes but root for their respective schools. But hey, we have to take the first step somewhere, and it looks like the league and the state have put together a solid program to be able to safely do that. Like I said last week, I will also miss the Friday night lights of fall football and the rocking gyms of volleyball, but let's cross our fingers and hope to see them in the third season.

Also, I must urge that we all do our part to help the situation and abide by the rules that are now put in place. Whether you’re an athlete, coach, official, fan, or member of the media like myself.

Think back to when the winter season was cut short, how devastating that was for everyone, especially the kids that made it so far into the season and worked so hard.

Then remember the spring … the disappointment that kids had back in May when the season was officially cancelled, it was crushing to see the reaction. 

We finally have sports back. As much as we want to celebrate, as we should, we also need to think about what is ahead of us here.

Come winter, there will be no option for outdoor sports. Basketball, hockey, wrestling, swimming, indoor track, none of them. Assuming we do not see a significant drop in COVID numbers, it will only be more difficult to pull these sports off.

So whether it is sports related or not, just your everyday life, let’s continue to be as smart as possible when trying to curb this disease and lets’ abide by all rules put in place. Change is tough, and it is going to be different, but let’s make this next step one that pushes us forward, not back.

Now, I will not end this column on a negative note, I refuse.

We have finally made it back, we have high school sports again. Let’s enjoy getting back into it, and be sure to tune into the Warwick Beacon, Cranston Herald and Johnston Sun Rise in the coming weeks. I look forward to picking up where we left off six months ago. 

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