Closing the book

My Pitch

Posted

Fall sports are officially underway.

What that means for local athletes, coaches, and members of the media, is that normalcy has been restored to our schedules and routines.

Now, the regular season is still a week off, but teams are right in the thick of their preseason practices and some have already begun to scrimmage.

I am always excited to get fall sports underway. Of course, I love summer and will miss the respite, but I always start itching for the school year around this time.

I am going to do a longer, more in depth column on the upcoming fall sports season in the coming weeks, but I do need to touch on one item, one last time.

After a summer of uncertainty, anxiety and confusion, sports are returning to the Warwick School system for another year. I am sure you are all sick of this topic, and I’ll admit that I am as well, but I feel like I never really closed the book on it entirely and would rather get it out of the way before the season officially begins.

Overall, I am glad to see the school committee pass an amended budget that includes sports and that it managed to come to a compromise in time for the fall.

Throughout the process I always tried to understand each side of the argument, despite it not always being easy. I went in pretty hard at the school committee at times, and although I am not letting it off the hook, I have to at least acknowledge that it did the right thing. Good on them.

But now that it is in the rearview … for now … I think there needs to be some sort of assurance that this will not happen again moving forward.

As I have said numerous times throughout this process, I am not the best person to ask regarding the specifics and the politics surrounding this issue and the school budget. However, I do believe that sports should have some level of protection from cuts. School and education should always come first, but sports should be right toward the bottom of the list of items subject to being cut when the budget gets tight.

Sports are of such great importance to high school kids, and especially in inner cities like Warwick. They give kids the chance to socialize, learn how to work as a team, and oftentimes keep kids out of trouble and even are the sole reason why kids go on to college. Academics are and should always be the top priority in high school, but athletics are without a doubt, vital.

One question that I have not been able to answer is, how did the school department get to the point where it felt that cutting sports was the proper solution?

I’m assuming it is because the money situation was indeed, that bad. I have trouble wrapping my head around the idea that the budget was mismanaged to the point that cutting sports was a necessity, but that’s the only realistic explanation that I can come up with.

The other thought, which is kind of disturbing to me, is the idea that perhaps the school department truly did not view sports as a priority when the initial cuts were announced. I do not believe that this is the case, but could it be?

In terms of a hard, objective solution, it is beyond me. I hope that the school committee and the heads of each school in the city can find a solution to better manage the budget and take a step in the right direction. How will that be done, what precautions will have to be taken, where can they look to trim the fat? I don’t have the answer for any of those questions.

In terms of what we can do as fans though? Stay adamant and continue to keep the pressure on.

Sure, it is great to have sports back and it is a big relief. But, does this really solve the issue beyond this year? It is up to the fans teams to continue to fight for greater security, and to make it clear to everyone in the school department how important sports are and what they mean to the city.

It will be interesting to see the response this season. If you remember, I did an article on the Pilgrim football team during its summer workouts. One of the things that stuck out to me the most, was when captain Ethan Laramee essentially told me, “The pressure is on the fall teams since they will be the first ones to hit the field.”

He is absolutely right, and I do think it is important for these fall teams to make a statement. Whether it be the teams having big years, or fans coming in larger numbers, the response in the next month or two needs to be a big one, and it needs to set the tone moving forward.

I am excited to enjoy another school sports season, and am thankful that both sides reached a solution, even if it is short term. Let’s focus on the future now, and never again lose sight of the importance of sports at the local level.

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