WARWICK — As high school coaches are seeking to make plans that would enable them to work with their athletes during the summer months, the RIIL has been working closely with the Rhode Island School Superintendents' Association (RISSA) to establish guidelines for the coming months.
Will schools allow summer sports to be open?
"It’s going to be [Gov. Gina Raimondo’s] ballgame through the superintendents. That’s where we will fit in as an organization," RIIL Executive Director Tom Mezzanotte said during a meeting of the Principals' Committee on Athletics.
PCOA member and Burrillville Superintendent Michael Sollitto summarized RISSA’s position during these pandemic times. While actual game competition is not allowed during Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan, camps are allowed. In addition, a number of football teams have used social media to announce details pertaining to summer workouts.
Per Sollitto, coaches would be wise to get in contact with their district’s superintendent, principal, and athletic director. They must submit a plan that includes adhering to all relevant and current guidelines that pertain to social distancing and cleanliness.
“If they’re approved, then they’ll be cleared to run their offseason conditioning programs,” said Sollitto, noting those plans will be kept on file so that all parties will be covered liability-wise. “What we don’t want to see is kids meeting with coaches and the superintendent, principal, and athletic director are unaware of it. Keeping that line of communication open so that everyone can work together is going to be helpful.”
Mezzanotte characterized the relationship between the Interscholastic League and the state’s superintendents as “critical. It’s a collaborative effort.”
In a letter the Interscholastic League recently sent to each member school’s principal and athletic director, it said that, “The RIIL strongly recommends that all schools notify their coaches that any contact with students must be approved to ensure that all activities meet the governor’s Phase 2 guidelines whether they take place on or off school grounds.”
If Raimondo shifts to Phase 3 sometime in early July, Mezzanotte said the guidelines with respect to summer sports could be updated.
“It’s a fluid situation, but we’re hoping to build off the Phase 2 guidelines,” said Mike Lunney, RIIL Assistant Executive Director. “We’re trying to forecast but we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s about showing what’s possible. As many resources we can provide the superintendents as far as planning, the better off we’re all going to be.”
In a meeting with the state’s athletic directors on Friday, a number of them said that they’ve already held meetings with administrators concerning summer sports.
“Some of them are clear on what they can and cannot do, but there are some athletic directors who have no idea what’s going to happen. Some of them have said they’re going to start on July 1 while others will wait until after the Fourth of July,” said Mezzanotte. “Again, that is a district’s decision to make. The league gives coaches the opportunity to work with kids. That’s in our rules. The school districts give coaches the opportunity to use their facility and to work with their athletes.”
To Mezzanotte, the bottom line is that kids have been cooped up for way too long.
“They need to get off the couches and away from the video games. They need to get away from virtual learning,” Mezzanotte said. “They need to get outside and start conditioning themselves for hopefully a fall season. Our parents want to see kids out there, but they want to see them out there in the right way.”
In other items discussed Monday:
• Outside of boys basketball, all winter realignment proposals for the 2020-21 season were approved.
• A motion was passed to reconvene the spring sports realignment committees for recommendation purposes with an eye towards the 2021 spring season.
• In the past, the RIIL’s Emergency Action Plan only pertained to football. The PCOA voted to approve that an Emergency Action Plan should be developed and in place at every high school. That would mean the presence of an athletic trainer at all practices and games.
“We don’t mandate it. We recommend it,” Mezzanotte said.
• The meeting opened with a moment of silence for Dick Fossa, the former Narragansett football head coach who was working as North Kingstown’s athletic director at the time of his death on Saturday.
“We’re going to miss him a lot … a standup guy who was involved in our league a lot,” said PCOA member Chris Cobain, who’s also East Greenwich’s Athletic Director.
• The PCOA voted to appoint Craig MacKenzie, the principal at Chariho High , and Nathan W. Biah Sr., the principal at Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School, to fill the vacancies on the PCOA left by the resignation of Blackstone Valley Prep principal Michaela Keegan and the retirement of Middletown principal Gail Ponte. Additionally, Cobain announced that he’s stepping down from the PCOA.
• The meeting closed with an acknowledgement that thanked Mezzanotte for his many years of service to the Interscholastic League. Mezzanotte is retiring next month and will be replaced by Lunney. The PCOA voted to approve moving ahead with finding someone who will assume the RIIL position that was held by Lunney for the past nine years.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03