To the editor:
Last year Boys’ Varsity Tennis (after 47 years as an interscholastic sport) was taken from the Spring Sports docket to add Boys’ Varsity Volleyball. Which sport is better? Which is more important? No one can determine that!
The important theme is that all children should have an opportunity to participate in Varsity sports.
At the School Committee Meeting on August 13, 2013, the public was told that there would be more discussion, more answers about Title IX, and more information about giving girls equal opportunity and that a decision would not be made until such time that all points were considered and discussed. At that meeting no one stood up and advocated for boys’ volleyball although a multitude of people spoke to keep Boys’ Varsity Tennis and what positive effects tennis had on their children. Many students spoke of its importance.
At a later school committee meeting, much to the surprise of many, it was approved; tennis was dropped and volleyball was added. All year long, several of us have been trying to understand the reasoning and lack of transparency behind this move. We attended school committee meetings, met with Superintendent Thies, met with the Athletic Director, Christy Belisle, attended budget workshops, and recently met with the new Superintendent, Dr. Mario Andrade.
Up until the meeting with Dr. Andrade, never once did we get an answer that was clear. It was just discussion, discussion, and diversion! To appease us, in its place, a Boys’ Tennis Club was created. When asked if a club sport is reasonably satisfying as compared to a varsity sport, the response was that it is not the same caliber or quality, but it would still be competitive above and beyond what an intramural sport would be.
We were told that the students would have opportunities to play matches, be allowed to play in the State Tennis Championships, and could have the same number of matches they had last year as an interscholastic team. This was not the case! Six matches were organized, but only four were played the entire season. The students were told they would be able to at least compete in the Individual State Tennis Championship but were later denied the opportunity because they were not part of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League; they were just members of a club. JUST MEMBERS OF A CLUB…..maybe someone should have kept an eye on this club….
The boys were devastated and once again denied another tennis opportunity. Members of this club, both boys and girls, experienced some very serious and traumatic situations. They were exposed to alcohol being bought for underage students, cyber sexting by an adult, and even reported verbal sexual harassment.
Not only did this team get slammed by being surreptitiously dismantled and turned into a club, but they were abused yet again when someone allegedly performed these horrible acts on them. Will they recover? Sure. Will they always remember Yes!
The lack of transparency, poor communication, and skirting around the public’s requests put these students in this unfortunate position. These adults in positions of power are supposed to be serving the town and its students, setting an example for the students to follow. What are these students to learn from this experience? The least the school department can do now is bring back Boys’ Varsity Tennis, admit the mistake, and rectify it! Give these boys the opportunity they deserve that was unfairly taken away from them.