Blogs | Eric Benevides

No R.I. girls' volleyball season is a bit baffling

It's been five days since the Rhode Island Interscholastic League made its decision to move football and girls' volleyball to its "Season 3" of its four-season format, and I'm still scratching my head over why volleyball, of all sports, got moved to next spring.

When I wrote a story in June about the Gator's Pub Summer Volleyball League becoming the first sports organization in northern Rhode Island to begin its season since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, you couldn't help but have a couple of reservations over this move. The league had 77 teams taking the court -- most of them six-player teams -- and the players had the option of wearing masks. But the league closely practiced social distancing and the state's Phase 3 guidelines and reworked a few of its own rules, and the league didn't see one COVID-19 case. Not one.

Sure, the league plays outdoors. But Mount Saint Charles Academy hosted a summer volleyball skills camps this summer, with dozens of kids working out at the facility. Again, head coach Josh D'Abate and his staff went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure everyone's safety and enforce the state's guidelines, and like the Gator's Pub league, this program also saw zero cases.

And while this has nothing to do with volleyball, a high school basketball coach, a parent, and two players recently told me of a high school summer basketball tournament that took place last month in southern New Hampshire, with several teams from five different states playing each other. Again, the tournament organizers did their due diligence, and weeks later, there still hasn't been any reports of someone coming down with COVID-19.

My thoughts on a high school volleyball season? It could have been done, with a few stipulations. One, limit the fans to two per player and coach, space them out in the stands, and make them wear masks. Two, any schools who have a small gymnasium shouldn't be allowed to host any matches. Yes, I'm looking at you, Shea and Tolman, and a case can be made to add Scituate to this small list. Three, teams can only carry a max of 12 players and two coaches. And four, make the junior varsity teams play best-of-three matches, or none at all.

A final thought: The news of the volleyball season getting bumped to next spring must have basketball coaches and players sweating out their winter season, which traditionally starts the week after Thanksgiving. Volleyball is nowhere near the "contact sport" basketball is, with playing fighting for rebounds and loose balls and fouling each other. And let's not talk about wrestling! It's going to be very interesting to see what happens this winter.

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