Tri County Vocational Cancels Winter Sports SeasonDec 30, 2020 01:07PM ● By ken HAMWEY
Sara Martin, Tri County Vocational’s athletic director, hopes students can return to varsity competition in the Fall 2 season.
A new year often signals that changes are coming, but for Tri County Vocational, it’s status quo when it comes to interscholastic athletics. For the third consecutive season, the Cougars will not be competing in varsity athletics after the school district canceled all winter sports.
The decision was made on Nov. 30, and on Dec. 1 the Franklin school issued this statement regarding winter sports:
“While we have safely begun to transition our population back into the school building, there are still a myriad of hurdles to overcome. As we look ahead to the winter months, the health, safety and wellness of our student athletes, coaches and others associated with our athletic program remain our top priority. “Unfortunately, this factor in conjunction with the decisions of many other fellow Mayflower Athletic Conference schools, have led the District to cancel the winter athletic season.”
Tri County, along with every other public school in Massachusetts, could not compete last spring, because the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) canceled all sports because of the coronavirus pandemic. But, when fall rolled around, most schools were back competing, even with autumn teams facing a plethora of modifications. Tri County and other Mayflower League schools, however, moved their fall sports to the newly-created Fall 2 season that gets underway in late February.
“Cancelling the winter season was not an easy thing to do,’’ said Sara Martin, Tri County’s Athletic Director. “It’s the hardest decision an administrator can make, because athletics are a part of kids’ lives. A decision like this gets everyone upset. It’s devastating for student-athletes, coaches and parents. We did not make this decision lightly.’’
Besides Martin, the regional school committee, the Tri County Principal (Michael Procaccini) and the Superintendent (Stephen Dockray) all were part of the decision-making process.
“Other Mayflower League schools faced challenges,’’ Martin noted. “Schedules were staggered, and their gyms were transformed into classrooms. We were hoping to salvage basketball and hockey, and we held out as long as we could. When other league schools decided not to pursue those sports, that left us with what could be only non-league games. “We knew that scheduling games would be extremely difficult, because conferences, like the Tri Valley League, are competing strictly within their league.’’
Tri County’s gym may have to be converted into part-time classrooms because the school is looking to bring in more students academically. And, with all the safety protocols and transportation limits (no more than 25 people on a bus) Martin said “we just couldn’t make the pieces work.’’
At Local Town Pages deadline, Tri County was bringing students in for four days every other week for vocational learning, while fully remote for one half-day of vocational weeks and for all academics.
Besides Tri County, the Mayflower League schools include Norfolk Agricultural, Southeastern Regional, Bristol-Plymouth, Old Colony, Diman Voke, Blue Hills Regional, Upper Cape Regional, Cape Cod Tech and Bristol Agricultural. The communities that Tri County serves are Franklin, Millis, Medway, Norfolk, Wrentham, Sherborn, North Attleboro, Plainville, Seekonk and Walpole.
Martin is “cautiously optimistic’’ that the school will participate in the Fall 2 season when its football, soccer, volleyball, golf and cross-country teams will get an opportunity. “We’ll be happy to compete with whatever modifications are imposed,’’ she emphasized. “I’d like those sports to be played, and we’ll do our best to make it happen.’’
Martin, meanwhile, has started an intramural program at the school. On Dec. 14, students who signed up and registered could participate in basketball, volleyball and indoor track.
“I pushed for this,’’ she said. “The kids need physical activities, and we need to help them unleash their energy by playing sports again. I am an athlete, and I miss competing. We are following protocols such as wearing masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing and crowd limitations. There is a cap for each sport, and no more than 25 students can compete at a time. The key is we are addressing social, emotional and physical needs.’’
Another opportunity arrives this month when open skating will be held at the Pirelli Veterans Arena in Franklin. Ice time was purchased early and now it will be used during January and half of February. “We have an hour available three times a week for six weeks,’’ Martin said.
Although vaccines will be offered soon, Martin says they should help and that “it’ll be a long process, a part of the puzzle.’’
It’s obvious that no matter how much education an administrator has, dealing with a pandemic has been all about on-the-job training. Martin has a bachelor’s and master's degree in history from Providence College, and she also earned a second masters in administration from Framingham State. Not only does she handle all the athletic activities at Tri County, but she also teaches history.
“The pandemic causes changes and uncertainty every day,’’ she said. “It’s an exercise in patience and flexibility. I like to plan, but the changes and the uncertainty are somewhat prohibitive, because you can only plan for several scenarios.’’
Currently at Tri County, the focus is on getting varsity athletics back on the menu. Hopefully, the coronavirus will be conquered moving forward, enabling the Cougars’ athletic teams to find some enjoyment in the Fall 2 season that begins next month.