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Franklin - Local Town Pages

Angelo’s Perspective on Virus Hits Mark at Difficult Time

Jun 18, 2020 03:17PM ● By KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer

Losing the season was disappointing, but Tom Angelo says he echoes other A.D.’s sentiments when he says the health of the student players is his top priority.

When Governor Charlie Baker closed all schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 calendar year on April 21 and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) ruled that all sports for the spring season were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tom Angelo wasn’t surprised. But, he was disappointed.

“In dealing with the virus, it’s the big picture that matters,’’ said Angelo, who’s been Franklin High’s athletic director for four years. “It’s about the health and safety of everyone — our student-athletes, the community and the country. It’s about the health of an entire world. That’s what’s most important. That’s the top priority.’’

As far as the spring sports season being eliminated goes, the 58-year Angelo is hurting. He’s hurting for student-athletes at Franklin and for every competitor in every league throughout the state.

“In the smaller picture, to have no season this spring is heartbreaking,’’ he said. “It’s disappointing, but the Governor and the MIAA acted in the best interest of student-athletes. It’s tough to eliminate a season, but I wholeheartedly agree with their decision.

“For seniors to lose out on their final season is difficult. It’s the last time they would have put on their school’s uniform. Juniors are also affected, because their futures are starting to take shape and to be unable to display their abilities hurts. For freshmen and sophomores, they no doubt were looking forward to making a team, competing and having a role.’’

Before the mandate to shut down all public and private schools, the Hockomock League was well-prepared to deal with an abbreviated season.  Angelo, who’s been the league president for 2019-20, played a major role in ironing out details for a shortened campaign.

“We planned for a full season before the virus struck, then we altered everything for a late April start,’’ Angelo noted. “That changed so we prepared to have a schedule set for a May 4 re-opening of school. I’m disappointed that the plan for a shortened season didn’t work out, but that was the hand we were dealt. And, I can speak for all the Hockomock League’s athletic directors and say they want what’s best for student-athletes.’’

Here’s how an abbreviated season would have transpired:

For baseball, softball tennis and lacrosse, those teams would have played 10 games,  either in the Kelly-Rex or Davenport Divisions. Then they would have played either two cross-over games or two non-league contests. That would have guaranteed a 12-game schedule, and if they had qualified for the tourney, they would have followed the MIAA rules. The MIAA decided that June 27 would have been the final day to compete and there would be only Sectional champions decided. For teams that did not qualify for the playoffs, they would have competed in a three game, league round-robin tourney.

Before regular season games got underway, there would have been a one-week period for pre-season practice (May 4-11).

Boys and girls track would have competed in tri-meets and quad-meets and the division champions would have been determined by their records in their respective divisions. There would also have been a Hockomock League meet and an MIAA Sectional. Unified track would have had two tri-meets, a league meet and an MIAA meet.

Because of the virus, two Franklin teams were shortchanged during the winter season — girls basketball and the cheerleaders. The hoop team was unbeaten at 25-0 and was set to play Andover in the State final after winning the Division 1 South Sectional. But, the MIAA called off all of the State’s championship finals and declared the remaining teams as “co-champions.’’ Franklin’s cheerleaders, who were No. 1 in the regional competition, were preparing for the State finals but never got to compete.

“I felt sad for both teams,’’ said Angelo, who’s worked from home during the shutdown. “For the basketball team, they didn’t get to compete in a State championship game. They didn’t have the chance to experience all that’s involved in being in a State title game. Our cheerleaders missed out on something they worked all season for. There was no State competition and, unlike the girls’ basketball team, they didn’t get the opportunity to be declared co-champs.’’

Franklin High’s strength and conditioning program, a seven-week summer activity for those aiming to sharpen their athletic skills, is still on hold. The Governor indicated that summer camps and programs could be held, but he’ll decide on that issue at a later date.

Angelo, who previously was an A.D. at Somerset-Berkley and Plymouth North, firmly believes that the Covid-19 pandemic will change the way lives and athletics unfold in the future. “Our day-to-day activities will change, and it’s likely there’ll could be no more handshakes after games,’’ he noted. “There may be a different approach on water bottles and coolers, and distancing at games may still be practiced.’’

Athletic directors weren’t the only group linked to high school sports that were affected by curtailing the spring season. It affected coaches, players, fans, umpires and referees, bus drivers and concession-stand workers. “Lots of people had to deal with the decision,’’ Angelo said. “But, every Hockomock League A.D. supported the decision. They made the welfare of student-athletes their top priority.’’

Angelo, who has 36 years of experience as an educator, has canceled or postponed games because of inclement weather and a rare power outage. But, never did he think a virus would be so far-reaching in its effect on public health and various activities.

“We have to keep adjusting,’’ Angelo said. “The key is to be patient and calm in dealing with what’s occurred.’’