By ALEX SPONSELLER As the Rhode Island high school sports season kicks off this week, middle school sports are on hold until at least the winter and possibly beyond. Some have wondered why middle school sports will not be played this fall, especially
By ALEX SPONSELLER As the Rhode Island high school sports season kicks off this week, middle school sports are on hold until at least the winter and possibly beyond.
Some have wondered why middle school sports will not be played this fall, especially considering the fact that local high schools have received the green light from the state and Rhode Island Interscholastic League.
The primary reason, according to RIPCOA Chairman Patti Aull, was the pod system that local middle schools will be using to begin the school year. The pod system has kids stay in the same, small group throughout each school day in order to limit the amount of exposure to one another.
“We aligned ourselves with the high schools with what they were thinking and the modifications. But when it came down to it, the creation of pods in middle schools that are not being followed in high school, it seemed very contradictory to us to say, ‘OK, well at 2 o’clock you may all go run around together.’ It did not fit together, those two ideas,” said Aull.
Another factor in play was transportation, as bus availability and schedules have also been affected by the ongoing pandemic.
“Transportation was a huge concern. In (my district) we have been told that we may not be able to get a bus until 5:30 p.m. during the week. That’s a big concern. We have heard from parents saying that we should let them drive (the kids) themselves, but many school districts have policies saying that the school must transport kids to a school-sanctioned event. There are many questions, like will certain things be breaking school policies, which we can’t do.”
Aull and the board at RIPCOA are aiming to add a third season between winter and spring - similar to the RIIL’s plan. This third season would include boys and girls soccer and cross country. Although this is RIPCOA’s plan moving forward, Aull said that much is still to be determined before committing to even a winter season.
“From here, any decision will depend on the guidance from the department of health. Right now as it is situated, as a school principal, I believe (the pod system) will be used for the year. If the cases improve or stay low then we may be able to move around a little bit more. If the restrictions loosen up then we may be able to open up sports. That’s our goal, to have our winter season and then a fall 2 season,” Aull said. “Could things change and move forward? Absolutely, but right now, we are very confident and comfortable with our decision and feel that it is the safest thing we can do at this point.”
Cranston middle school athletic director Justin Erickson was surprised by the cancellation of the fall when the news broke.
“Obviously, it’s a shame that they got postponed. I was kind of shocked when looking at what the high school was doing, I was caught off guard. But when they explained the reasons why, it made sense. Coaches are upset, they’re sad. At the end of the day, middle school is big for development, so they want to do what is best for the kids,” said Erickson, who feels that Cranston coaches are optimistic moving forward. “Coaches are comfortable because they know a lot of kids will continue to play outside of their schools, like on travel teams and things like that.”
Erickson hopes to see sports back as soon as possible, and stressed the importance of athletics at the middle school level.
“Playing in the winter is our plan as of today, but we don’t know, they could come out tomorrow and shut the whole thing down. We’ll see, if we are able to, we’re going to give it a go,” said Erickson. “It’s very important. Middle school sports keep these kids occupied, keeps them out of trouble when they’re on the field or court. But we’ll figure it out, we’ll be sure to give these kids something.”