Old Rochester sports face down triple threat

Aug 20, 2019

The Old Rochester Regional Athletic Program faces a triple threat to practice and game time this season: town activities bans for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, new heat index rules from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association and deteriorating athletic facilities. However, it seems the program will be able to find ways around all of these challenges. 

The MIAA recently instituted a new heat modification policy. New rules break down temperatures above 76 degrees into five ranges, with a different amount of protection, length of workout and workout to water break ratio allowed (or required) at each level. 

Old Rochester Regional Athletic Director Bill Tilden called the rules “tricky to try to follow throughout the day,” and said, “I spend more time doing that than I would like.”

Mattapoisett is currently at “high risk” for the mosquito-borne disease EEE, which is rare in humans but causes brain inflammation and has no known cure.

The town has instituted a dusk activities ban on all town lands, to avoid people coming in contact with mosquitos when they are most active (at dusk and at night). The ban does apply to the school as well, but Tilden says that “I haven’t made any adjustments. Teams don’t practice that late anyhow.” He explained that he has had to move all the practices for past EEE outbreaks, so now he keeps them as early as possible. 

The football program’s new Head Coach Bryce Guilbeault said that the ban would make scheduling difficult, as he doesn't want to hold practices too early either to avoid the heat.

However he said In regards to the EEE situation, player safety is the most important thing.

Most other sports are not affected, as “football games are the only thing in the evening,” Tilden explained. He hopes that there will be an early frost before the first game on Sept. 27, which will kill the mosquitoes and end the activities ban. 

However, that first frost will present another problem for a football field that is in rough shape. Though Tilden says that it’s been easier to grow grass on the field this year, because the area has gotten rain about once a week, he also says much of what’s on the field right now is crabgrass. 

“When you get the first frost the mosquitoes die, but also the crab grass,” he explained.  

The school committee and two advocacy groups Tri-town Unified Recreational Facilities (or T.U.R.F) and Restore ORR had recently proposed a $2 million school renovation plan, which would have replaced the main field with a turf field, repaired the track and improved the auditorium.

Project advocates said that the field, which is uneven and becomes muddy after rain, posed a health risk to athletes, and could get reported to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which could shut the fields down.

“It’s not an ‘if,’ it’s a ‘when’ that [field] gets closed down,” said Luke McCoy, an industry expert from Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc.

The project required Town Meeting and ballot box approval from all three towns. Marion and Mattapoisett approved the measure at Town Meeting and at the polls in May, with Rochester Town Meeting also voting in favor. The plan got a “no” vote at the Rochester polls, though.

Long-term solutions include breaking the proposal into three different projects for the track, field and auditorium and taking those to Community Preservation groups, looking for grants or raising the money through private groups.

For now, Guilbeault said that the practice field is in fair condition. Since practice started on Aug. 16, he has been rotating practice drills to use different sections of the field, to reduce wear and tear in any one area.

Other teams will begin practices on Aug. 22. How the fields hold up might depend on how many games soccer and other sports have on it. The first home football game is not until Sept. 27, and it is possible that it could suffer additional wear and tear from other games before then.