PAWTUCKET – Athletic directors often complain during the winter months about having to rearrange the start times and dates of their sporting events due to heavy snowstorms.

The tedious part isn’t just arranging an amiable plan to make up a postponed contest, but also scheduling buses for road trips for that day but also officials.

Here it is, early September, and there’s no snow on the ground, but area ADs are experiencing the same problem. The reason: The threat of the EEE virus.

Apparently, the Rhode Island Department of Health, in conjunction with the R.I. Interscholastic League, conducted a teleconference call with high school principals and their sports directors informing them of how dangerous the mosquito-born virus can be. Those officials also asked the ADs to take proper precautions; they called it “Smart Scheduling.”

Coaches or ADs should reschedule all outdoor games and/or practices that have been slated for dusk or later, and to avoid any pre-school workouts.

“Honestly, this is worse than snow days – a real pain in the neck – but it’s something we all have to do for the safety of our athletes, coaches, fans and other spectators,” Tolman AD Frank Laliberte. “The last two days, I’ve been non-stop, and I’m not even talking about scheduling for later this month; I’m talking about the rest of this week and next.

“I haven’t had to postpone anything yet, but I have had to move some events, especially boys soccer games,” he added. “For example, (today), the boys’ (varsity) team was supposed to host La Salle at 7 p.m., but we had to move it up to 4:30. That means we had to cancel the JV game, which had been slated for then.

“We also have a game set for Oct. 1 against Central Falls,n it will be played at McKinnon-Alves. That game was supposed to be at 6:30 with the JV at 4:30, but now the varsity will play at 4:30 instead. We had to cancel the JV game; this is hurting the growth of the younger players.

“As far as football games, our next two games were supposed to be at 7 (p.m.), but both have been moved to 4. We’ll be at West Warwick (tonight) and at Narragansett (next Friday afternoon) … Our principal (Chris Savastano) sat in on the teleconference call (at 9 a.m., Thursday), and it lasted about a half hour.

“Apparently, the DOH and Interscholastic League are leaving up to the individual schools what the best course of action is for them, so we’re doing the best we can.”

The fact is, ADs and coaches already had been addressing the EEE scare.

According to Central Falls AD Anthony Ficocelli, his varsity and JV boys soccer squads had been slated to play league games at Cumberland’s Tucker Field back on Sept. 9. The JV team managed to get its clash in, but the varsity didn’t.

“That night, before our varsity could take the bus up to Tucker, I got a phone call from (Cumberland AD) Matt Campanelli, and he told me the varsity game was postponed because of EEE spraying going on in the area. He said that he had received that information from the Mayor’s office or something like that.

“(The threat) is kind of everywhere right now, but I wouldn’t say it’s affected us all that much because all of our outdoor teams’ practices are done by 5:30. The only gave we’ve had postponed is that one, but I had to move three others from 6 or 6:30 (p.m.) to 3:30 or 4.

“It’s not much of a hassle now, but it might be eventually because we have a lot of boys soccer games scheduled for 6, 6:30 or 7. It all depends when we get our first frost – that’s when the threat is supposed to be over. When it comes to football, right now we’re OK because we have Saturday afternoon games, but on Oct. 4, we’re supposed to play at Pilgrim at 7. Who knows what’s going to happen then?”

Burrillville AD John Abbate, who is also a sports official, explained that when the EEE threat news came out a few weeks ago, “I immediately went out and bought 25-30 cans of Off! bug spray, gave them to all my coaches and told them to make sure they and all their players sprayed themselves.

“I was just playing it safe then, an we’re still doing that,” he added. “We had received an e-mail from our superintendent over the weekend wanting to know how we were addressing the issue, and I answered him, ‘The wheels are already in motion.’

“I also looked at what other schools were doing, and they were making accommodations for it – that is, no late starts. We actually have a football game (Friday) at South Kingston (Curtis Corner Middle School), but they moved the game time up to 5.”

When it comes to soccer, most schools who play afternoon games lead with the varsity club at 3:30 or 4 p.m., and the JV tilt follows it, usually around 5:15-5:30. Abbate explained he gave each coach (including other outdoor sports like field hockey) the option of canceling the JV contests or rescheduling them to another field or site at an earlier time.

“This is only for the remainder of the month,” he said. “Come the end of the month, we’ll reevaluate depending on what the news is about EEE.”

At Davies Tech, AD Bob Morris indicated his school’s first varsity football game against Scituate at Pawtucket’s Pariseau Field is still on for 6:30 tonight.

He also stated that his boys and girls varsity soccer teams don’t have to change anything because they usually begin at 3:30 or 3:45, though did mention he’s worried about getting in those JV tilts.

“Right now, we’re looking at various options so they can play,” he noted. “One is to have the JV teams play on an adjacent field, another is to switch days when the field isn’t being used. This is definitely a precaution we all need to look at and pay attention to. Our first responsibility is the safety of the kids.

“We’re following the recommendations we’ve been given and we’ll do everything we can to keep the teams and the fans safe. That’s why, when we had a boys soccer game at Narragansett last week, they moved it up from 7 (p.m.) to 3:30, plus the JV played on another field.

“We’re all more than aware of this threat.”

Laliberte, however, warned that as summer days wane, so will the amount of afternoon daylight to play such games.

“The Department of Health said that this ‘Smart Scheduling’ might remain intact until the first frost, but that doesn’t usually happen until, like, mid-October, so we’re going to be busy rearranging everything,” he said. “They’re going to be a lot of jockeying to change them.

“Obviously, you’ve got to make sure the players and fans are safe, but then there’s the issue of, if we’re starting games earlier and earlier, you may have problems scheduling officials. There’s a shortage of officials already, so if the games are going to start earlier, they may not be able to make it. A lot of have work responsibilities.”

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