Present and future status of high school co-op teams examined
Members of the Cumberland-Lincoln co-op hockey team, sophomore Cassie DiPaola (17), and Jean Bray (16) embrace after Bray scored a goal in a recent game. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
PROVIDENCE â€” While the immediate future of Rhode Island high school co-op teams does not appear threatened, concern appears to be mounting about the direction the practice is heading.
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A portion of Mondayâ€™s gathering of the Principalsâ€™ Committee on Athletics focused on a myriad of topics that have to do with the validity of cooperative programs. The fact-finding mission is already underway -- a committee tasked by the Interscholastic League to weigh the pros and cons of co-ops recently sent out a three-page survey to principals and athletic directors.
Each school is being asked to carefully consider several issues ranging from why co-op teams are needed in the first place (budgetary, lack of participants, poor team performance), to whether their presence detracts from school-based athletics and fosters club/regional team participation.
Are co-op teams falling into the trap of resembling ĂĽber teams that threaten competitive balance? Has the time finally come to dismiss the idea that girlsâ€™ hockey â€“ a sport where co-ops have become the norm â€“ is still an emerging sport when itâ€™s been staging seasons since 2002-03?
Above all else, do co-op teams violate the primary regulation with regards to enrollment? When combining forces at two or sometimes three schools, does the student-based figure wind up exceeding the high school with the stateâ€™s highest enrollment?
Co-op teams are most prevalent in hockey, but PCD/Wheeler/Juanita Sanchez has been a mainstay in Division IV football since 2010. In the just-completed hockey season, there were four boysâ€™ co-op teams and seven girlsâ€™ co-op entries. Two of the boysâ€™ operations featured three schools combining resources and talent while for the girlsâ€™, you have four teams with at least three schools under the same umbrella.
Tom Mezzanotte, RIIL executive director, noted that the girlsâ€™ hockey co-op operations involving Ponaganset and Burrillville along with North Smithfield and Smithfield meet the required guidelines and that each would run into zero difficulty when the time comes to renew their membership.
â€śWeâ€™ve said that co-ops increase opportunity and thatâ€™s something the league is all about,â€ť stated Mezzanotte. â€śWeâ€™ll see what the survey brings back and whether more schools are looking into co-ops than ever. I can tell you that thereâ€™s something to be said for a school winning a championship and having your students participate.
â€śThere are a lot of questions are out there,â€ť continued Mezzanotte, â€śbut I donâ€™t think we would have girlsâ€™ hockey in this state without co-ops
While the co-op committee does not have the power to make specific changes to the system based on their findings, Mezzanotte cautioned that â€śit may raise its ugly headâ€ť as far as seeing more and more schools adopt a similar course of action in the coming years. Itâ€™s possible that the committee could present its findings to the PCOA at the next meeting, scheduled for June 17.
â€śThis is definitely a good thing to look into and be aware of,â€ť said Mezzanotte.
â€“ In other matters Monday, the fate of Rhode Island high school football officials will be discussed at Wednesdayâ€™s football committee meeting. After talking matters over with the Athletic Directorsâ€™ Association, the Interscholastic League has secured bids from officials from this state along with Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Mezzanotte noted that potentially bringing in out-of-state officials stems from concerns regarding the accountability of the current crop of R.I. officials along with how they are evaluated.
â€“ The PCOA tweaked the language regarding the presence of a licensed doctor and/or licensed athletic trainer, Instead of saying that the home school â€śshouldâ€ť provide a medical staffer, schools are â€śencouragedâ€ť to have someone on the premise, though itâ€™s not mandated by the RIIL.
â€“ By a unanimous margin (10-0), Lincoln High was fined $100 for allowing an academically ineligible male swimmer to participate in three meets. It should be noted that the student-athlete met RIIL academic standards but not those at Lincoln. The matter was self-reported by Lincoln school officials to the PCOA.
â€“ The girlsâ€™ basketball committee passed along a few items of note. The possibility of moving the playoffs from Rhode Island College to someplace else has been bandied about while Division III teams have expressed interest in having the quarterfinals take place at college sites. Currently, quarters are contested at the high schools.
Finally, there has been slight discussion of taking a page from boysâ€™ basketball and staging an open state tournament.