LINCOLN – Members of the Lincoln School Committee say they’re frustrated by the decision to cancel this year’s freshman basketball program amid a facility crunch.

Athletic Director Greg O’Connor said the decision wasn’t one anyone took lightly.

“When I heard that it was (canceled) I was a little surprised,” said John Picozzi, who asked for the reasons behind the move during Monday’s School Committee meeting.

O’Connor said it came down to issues with facilities, space and time. There are six to eight high school teams competing for athletic time in one facility, plus three middle school teams doing the same at LMS, he said.

“Running all of those programs under one roof at the high school wasn’t possible,” O’Connor said. “By no means does this mean it’s cut. We’re just facing issues with facilities, COVID, transportation … it’s not feasible this year.”

Picozzi said he respectfully disagrees, noting that they rent space to outside organizations at several Lincoln schools. O’Connor said they can’t safely put high school students in elementary school gyms. Having the freshmen practice at the middle school would take space away from LMS programs, he said.

Member Steven Carvalho said he’s also frustrated by the decision.

“I’ve had many, many people call about this,” he said. “There are a lot of people at a crossroads deciding whether to stay here in Lincoln, and I really feel we could be losing people. We should have done everything we could to have that program in play.”

The issue, Picozzi said, is that a basketball program was in the budget, and that the committee expected it would run.

There was some discussion on whether Lincoln Youth Basketball could be pushed a bit later in the evening, but O’Connor said he was worried about the educational impact on students who are out playing or practicing until late in the evening.

A total of 16 students tried out for the freshman team. Five made it onto the junior varsity team, and one onto varsity, but the remaining 10 won’t get the chance to play this year.

Carvalho, a former freshman coach, said they always aimed to keep around 25 players on the team every year because they had no idea of the ability of a child in the younger grades.

“Sixteen kids had the opportunity to play when it was budgeted,” he said. “We have no idea what they could be accomplishing. They’re probably never coming back to basketball because a group of people decided to keep only five or six.”

He said he was also concerned about the impact of the younger students who do make the varsity teams, being on the same bus with older athletes and potentially taking the spot of an upperclassman.

“Bottom line, there are 16 kids that could have played, giving them a better path than sitting at home,” Carvalho added.

Chairman Joseph Goho said the School Committee typically doesn’t involve itself in these types of issues, but several members of the community have reached out to express concerns and asked the committee to weigh in.

When passing the annual budget, Goho said, there’s an expectation that the programs in the budget will run. There will be changes, but “in a case like this with a small amount of money for a coach, referee fees and transportation fees, the expectation was to have freshman basketball as part of the athletic program … and now we don’t.”

Goho said one of his concerns is the loss of the North Gym, saying he recognizes the fact that Lincoln is desperate for athletic space. Still, he said, he doesn’t agree that practicing at an elementary school would be unsafe, just not ideal.

“It’s hard to understand how cutting freshman basketball is good for kids,” he said.

He questioned the timeline of events leading to the decision to cancel the program. The last freshman basketball coach resigned in November, two weeks before the start of the regular season.

Asked whether the resignation weighed into the decision, O’Connor said it was more about space, timing and transportation.

Member Staci Rapko asked that moving forward, the committee be informed before decisions like these are made, especially when it comes to cutting budgeted programs.

Picozzi asked for a vote to ensure that the program returns next year. If any obstacles arise that would prevent the program from running, he and other members asked that the committee be involved.

The committee ultimately voted to ensure that any budgeted Lincoln school program, if in jeopardy of being canceled, be brought to the committee.

(7) comments

InterestedObserver

Please explain why the powers that be in Lincoln, the School Committee and Budget Board continue to be penny wise and pound foolish. The indoor athletic facilities are woefully inadequate. The indoor track team practices outside in the winter or run the hallways. There is one gym to house boy's basketball, girl's basketball, wrestling and cheerleading squads. Look no further than North Providence High School, where our School Committee Chair is superintendent, they have not one, not two but three gyms. Lincoln has one. Look across the river to Cumberland, they have a three gym field house with a track that has been in use for over 15 years. If one wants to have a top notch high school athletic program, look at what East Providence built. A full size gym and another half gym in the same space. Take a look at the picture on line (https://images.app.goo.gl/DZDJSUNn87XBK6N8A.) Lincoln student athletes deserve better. Mr. O'Connor, the Athlete Director of the Year in RI, is doing great things for Lincoln athletics. Under his leadership, Lincoln High School is the only school in Rhode Island to earn a Level One designation from the National Federation of High Schools. He deserves the support of the School Committee and the entire community of Lincoln. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made and if Lincoln is willing to provide proper facilities then no program will have to endure a pause.

Justacitizen

It sure is frustrating to say the least! How did the citizens of Lincoln who in good faith and with the authorization of millions of tax dollars to support our youth end up with a high school renovation that does not do so? Why was the gymnasium reduced? How is there room for central administration on the high school complex but not sufficient space for the athletic program? I am puzzled. Will the School Committee and Lincoln Public Schools Administration be asking the citizens for millions of additional dollars to address the athletic issue and loss of classroom space to the administration wing? They sure will! Hold on to your wallets!

Jeb

This situation is terrible!

Why not keep all the boys in the program?

I recall when we ran a girls hockey program, at great expense, so that 6 girls could play. And the AD found ice time.

(Also we rent pool time at the YMCA, why not court time?)

These programs keep kids involved in their school and community.

Throw a few extra $$ at the varsity and jvarsity coaches if that’s what it takes.

Or maybe the AD could step in until a new coach is secured.

These coaches and AD are teachers too — what are they teaching these kids...

Bluephs

First, the Lincoln School officials dropped the ball when their construction plans changed and eliminated the second gym and scrapped the plan for a new gymnasium. Secondly, none of the committee members have the understanding of the nuances of running a RIIL athletics program and what variables go into scheduling games, practices, travel, busing, and league guidelines. Greg O’Connor is probably the best overall athletic director in the state. Also Greg is a member of the Cumberland Hall of Fame for Basketball. To think he doesn’t understand the impact (if any) this would have is laughable. For those members of the committee to question the decision isn’t based on their understanding of the system but rather their need to grandstand for their constituents. If “many” people showed concern they should look at the preposterous mishandling of the new high school building project and start there.

Reality

Problem starts at the top. What varsity coach would support cutting a feeder program?? Does not make sense.

taylorc12

Definitely time for the Varsity coach to go

Reality

That is for sure!! Long overdue!!

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