The last couple of weeks I have been deep into our high school sports coverage. I love this time of year, especially the football season. However, there are times when you need a break in the schedule and routine to shake things up.
Between my high school coverage, I have also been making pit stops at some of our local youth sports leagues whether it be soccer or football.
I do not have children of my own so I can’t offer much advice from experience, but I do feel that enrolling children into sports programs at a young age is so beneficial.
From the experience that I do have, some of my earliest memories of making friends and becoming part of my community were through athletics. Little League, Pop Warner football, all of that. I was one of those kids that was born with a ball in hand.
When swinging by these various leagues, it is always such a joy to watch. Between kids learning the sports, playing together, parents gathering to cheer them on. It is always such a pleasant environment and one that everyone can enjoy. These leagues are just so important for children in general, but also for their communities and beyond.
Point being to all of this - sign your kids up for a sport assuming they do not already have developed interests elsewhere. They will have fun, make friends, learn how to socialize and work as a team player, and will have memories to carry on with them through life.
Even if you do not have children, I would encourage anyone that enjoys sports to get involved in youth athletics. Whether it be coaching, sponsoring a team through your business, or simply just heading down to the field to check it out. It is always worthwhile. I always have fun hanging out and covering the action and it is always great to see enthusiastic parents rush to the newsstand to find the pictures and whatnot.
So, as another friendly reminder, support your local youth leagues.
Moving on to another reminder … which you probably saw from a mile away.
We are less than a month into the fall sports season and we have already seen many teams impacted by COVID in some way.
The most recent example in our coverage area was the Cranston West football team. Unfortunately, there was a COVID-related issue and its game against Shea was canceled early last week.
That cancellation along with a handful of others is a sobering reminder that the pandemic is still lingering and that we have to be prepared for anything.
I will say, on a note of optimism, it is good that we are now well-equipped to handle these situations and that we have enough control and protocols in place to prevent large spreads. Look at the Red Sox, for example, who are still in the middle of a big teamwide breakout. These issues still do exist and unfortunately happen, but they are becoming fewer and fewer which is a reason to have some relief, even if it is just a little bit so.
It appears that COVID is here to stay. I hate to say it, especially when a few short weeks ago I was saying that I felt like we were at the tail end of it. But when looking at the variants, the rising numbers, hearing about the possible need for greater protection beyond just these initial vaccines, it just seems like the battle is going to wage on for the long haul to some degree.
Again though, I do think that we have made progress in controlling the virus and have discovered precautions to avoid disaster. Think back to a year, year and a half ago when this was all still relatively new. If we had one person test positive, it usually became a scramble for others to get answers and to put systems in place to deal with it.
Let me make myself very clear, this is not me trying to downplay the severity, either. People are still getting sick, dying, it is still every bit as scary as it was at the beginning.
The difference, especially in the sports world, is that we have at least discovered some answers and have established some consistency in handling these outbreaks.
Moving forward, let’s continue to be safe, consistent and hygienic. We have made some great progress and each day we are learning more and more. With the winter coming soon, it is important that we don’t let our guard down and continue to fight. Let this also remind us to appreciate every sporting event that we can safely play and to enjoy every second that we are out there. Things can change fast.
I will finish this column with just a few quick-hit items from the last week:
First, Pilgrim football is back.
The Pats are now 2-0 in the regular season and 3-0 overall. They beat East Greenwich in the Injury Fund game, edged a tough Tolman team in the first week then put up 40 points to beat another formidable team in Middletown this past week.
Last spring appears to be an aberration … this team is right back to being one of the toughest squads in its division.
Johnston football is also off to a strong start. Prior to the season, when speaking with captains of the team, they were all adamant that they were legitimate last year when they reached the Super Bowl and wanted to prove that it was not a fluke. Sure, three games is a small sample size and they took a loss, but the Panthers just rolled to another win over Toll Gate and appear to be ready to make a playoff run here.
The Cranston East soccer team was 5-0 and surging when it was upset by West Warwick last week on the road. I hate to sound subjective here, but it was surprising when watching East. The Bolts were clearly more talented, clearly more explosive, and looked every bit of the 5-0 team that they were. It was just one of those games where it seemed that they let their guard down, West Warwick realized it, then pounced in the second half and took the game before East realized what had happened.
Ready for a corny take? I believe that the loss will only make East better moving forward. I can’t imagine they will forget the loss, especially when they held two different leads in the match. West Warwick won the game fair and square, it was not supernatural, they just outworked the Bolts in the second half. However, I still believe East is the cream of the crop.