NORTH SMITHFIELD – For a change of pace, let’s remove the shrouds of doubt and political bureaucracy that have helped create tension and uneasiness regarding the possible elimination of springtime sports at the town’s high school.
While there’s no denying that this threat to Northmen athletics is cause for concern, it’s also a tad on the premature side to jump to hasty conclusions that hone in on the worst-case scenario.
Officially, interscholastic spring teams aren’t allowed to pick up a baseball, softball, tennis racquet, lacrosse stick, volleyball or golf club until mid-March, hence there’s still a window for North Smithfield officials before making a final call.
“There is time to resolve this and hopefully that happens soon,” said Matt Tek, athletic director at North Smithfield High.
In the interim, there are some factors to keep in mind while everything gets sorted out.
Preliminary sketches of spring schedules in all sports were recently distributed to all Interscholastic League members. This practice of sending out schedules well in advance of the first game allows athletic directors and coaches the chance to double check and make sure there aren’t any gameday-related conflicts.
“Right now we’re in the process of confirming the schedules. You work with the schools as far as blocking things. Is the date good for your school? Yes, that time is good,” Tek explained. “That’s why we still have a window because the schedules are open and flexible at this point.”
According to Interscholastic League Director Tom Mezzanotte, the final draft of spring schedules will be distributed two weeks before the start of the season. With such finalization a long ways off, it’s worth noting once again the importance of pumping the breaks and letting this process play out rather than rush to judgment.
When the subject of signups for spring sports was broached, Tek said that they’ve generally taken place upon the students returning from February vacation. Understandably, this important step remains in a holding pattern.
“Rather than go forward and create any type of situation per say, we’ll let the process play itself out,” Tek noted.
If there is one pressing concern time-wise, it’s making sure that middle-school sports are given the green light to proceed forward. North Smithfield fields a middle school baseball and softball team.
“They tend to start before high school sports, usually the first week in March,” Tek pointed out.
As far as individual teams striking out on their own and holding fundraisers, Tek said that such an approach is frowned upon.
“At North Smithfield, we have a policy that there is no fundraising,” said the head of the Northmen’s athletic department.
Tek said that the RIIL is aware of North Smithfield’s predicament and what could be coming down the line. Again, he harped on time being an ally, at least for now.
“Any time a school is looking to drop sports, it’s disturbing for us. It limits opportunities for kids,” said Mezzanotte. “I don’t know what their financial situation is, but we would hope to see those students to have the opportunity to participate.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03