Middle school fall sports postponed

BMS coach: 'Personally, I really don't understand it.'

By Josh Bickford
Posted 9/14/20

Larson Gunness is hoping to come up with a "Plan B."

The coach of the Barrington Middle School track and cross country teams is scrambling to find some way to allow student-athletes an …

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Middle school fall sports postponed

BMS coach: 'Personally, I really don't understand it.'


Larson Gunness is hoping to come up with a "Plan B."

The coach of the Barrington Middle School track and cross country teams is scrambling to find some way to allow student-athletes an opportunity to participate in the fall sports season, following a decision by the RI Principals Committee on Athletics to postpone all middle school sports.

"Personally, I really don't understand it," Coach Gunness said. "All the kids, they need to get outside and play and run… they need this."

The decision also appears to run counter to the RI Interscholastic League's recent announcement that most fall high school sports will be played this season; only high school football, girls volleyball and unified volleyball will be pushed off until next spring.

Mr. Gunness said it is hard to understand why one group of state officials would allow high school sports while a different group of state officials would postpone all middle school sports.

"I don't see how this is good for the kids," Coach Gunness added.

Earlier this month, RI Governor Gina Raimondo held a press conference to share the news about high school sports: Boys and girls cross country, field hockey, girls tennis, sideline cheer, and boys and girls soccer are allowed to compete this fall. Some special requirements will be attached to some of those sports.

Meanwhile, there was hardly a mention of middle school sports. At Thursday night's Barrington School Committee meeting, Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore said there would be no "traditional" athletic competition at the middle school level this fall. He said the decision had been made by the RI Principals Committee on Athletics, which is separate from the RI Interscholastic League.

The RIPCOA website lists Patricia Aull as chairman, and Jeffrey Taylor and Terry Lynch as vice chairmen. In an interview on Monday, Sept. 14, Ms. Aull said her committee discussed the issue at length before voting unanimously to postpone the season. She said there is a significant difference to how students are being configured in classrooms between high school and middle school. Ms. Aull, the principal at Curtis Corner Middle School in South Kingstown, said middle schools are keeping students in stable pods throughout the school day, while high school students are mixing with other students in different classes throughout the day.

She said the idea of keeping middle school students in stable pods during the school day, but then allowing them to mix with other students after school seemed "counterproductive."

"It didn't make sense," Ms. Aull said.

The RIPCOA chairman said that other logistic challenges would also make middle school sports difficult this fall, such as scheduling busing and finding sites for the games and competitions.

Ms. Aull said the committee understands the importance of athletics at the middle school level, but felt the need to maintain consistency with the stable pods approach was paramount.

She also said that some people are reporting that middle school sports are canceled, which is not accurate.

"They're not canceled," she said. "We're postponing it."

The hope, she added, was to offer the fall middle school sports between the end of winter sports and the beginning of spring athletics. Ms. Aull said RIPCOA officials are also trying to find alternatives for the postponed fall sports — she mentioned intramural sports and club athletics.

As for feedback, Ms. Aull said the coaches of middle school sports at Curtis Corner have been supportive of the decision. She added that some parents are not happy with the decision.

Tough news

Mr. Gunness said he learned of the news from Barrington High School Director of Athletics and Student Activities, George Finn.

"I am sure that everyone has the best interest of everyone else in mind," Mr. Gunness said.

But it would be better to offer middle school student-athletes some sort of outlet, he added.

"It would be heart-breaking for kids to not have some sort of opportunity," Mr. Gunness said.

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