Friday, September 18, 2020

MPA greenlights most prep fall sports deemed as ‘low risk’

By Matt Pascarella

After weeks of discussions between the Maine Principals Association (MPA), Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ office and the Maine Superintendents School Association (MSSA), the MPA has given the green light for a fall season for all sports except football and volleyball.

Both of those sports will be moved to late winter or early spring, although the MPA did give the okay for seven-on-seven touch football and outdoor volleyball.

RSU 14 is looking at some outside skills and drills for the volleyball team. Football will hopefully participate in seven-on-seven strength and conditioning and team building. The school district is also awaiting further guidance on cheerleading but is looking at some skills sand drills for them.

The Windham girls' soccer team warms up during
one of the first practices of the season in
preparation for the team's opening game on
The Maine Guidelines for Community Based Sports classified golf and cross country as low risk and soccer and field hockey as moderate risk.

Practices for those sports began Tuesday, Sept. 14. The regular season for fall prep sports opens on Sept. 25, except for prep golf which begins Sept. 23.

There will be noticeable changes this season. In soccer, you will see less players in the goal box, and in field hockey there will be less substitute players; cross country will have staggered starts. Unfortunately, spectators will not be allowed during home games during the season.

Because of a low-risk factor, only cross country and golf have been cleared to participate in a post-season this fall. No other prep sports will have playoffs in Maine.

While waiting on Windham High School’s field hockey turf, senior Carissa O’Connell said that she sees the upcoming season as “an opportunity for athletes to come together and show sports are good for the community.”

Even though the season is not what they were expecting, they can turn it into something positive.

Players on the Windham girls’ soccer team are extremely excited to be back playing, especially after the cancellation of the spring season.

“RSU 14 Athletic Director Rich Drummond and Athletic Trainer Casey Sinclair have done a tremendous job preparing us on how to safely run practices and games,” said Windham girls’ soccer coach Deb Lebel. “You can expect to see a very competitive team on the field this fall.”

In the document released by the MPA, state officials and other agencies said players, coaches, staff, officials and spectators are required to wear a face covering when physical distancing is difficult to maintain. Face coverings must be worn when not engaged in vigorous activities. Face coverings are not currently recommended for players during play, though they may wear one if they choose.

“This past month with all the uncertainty has been quite difficult, as we kept being delayed and pushed back,” said Windham golf coach Adam Manzo. “I am excited and relieved to have a definitive answer. Even though we won’t have a full season, I think it is incredibly important for the social and emotional well-being of all our athletes to be given an opportunity to play.”

For Windham girls’ soccer senior Riley Beem, it’s great to be back any way she can. She said that she’s excited to start playing games and competing.

Beem’s teammate, senior Emma Yale, said that she’s glad to be able to get to be with her team in a safe, fun way.

Drummond said safety is a priority for all Windham athletes this fall.

“My outlook and focus is for a safe return to play and for people to see the value athletics bring to a school and community,” Drummond said. “For this season to be successful, we need all participants, fans, coaches and all individuals to be involved and adhere to the guidelines laid out by our state. If we deviate from any of this, it could jeopardize the ability for kids to participate.” <

Windham Little League softball cruises by Freeport in fall opener

By Matt Pascarella

Windham's Evelyn Anderson smashes an inside-
the-park home run during the fourth inning of
a Windham Little League softball game against
Freeport at Arlington Field on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Windham Little League’s softball major division team played Freeport on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at

Arlington Field during the start of Windham’s Fall Ball season and they came away a winner, 15-8.

Windham took an early lead and raced to victory with runs scored in every inning. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Evelyn Anderson swatted a ball flying into the outfield, and didn’t stop running until her cleats touched home plate for a home run.

“I usually don’t hit it (that) far and I wanted to make it home,” said Anderson.

She went on to say it felt good to get such a great hit.

While Windham scored in every inning they played, it was the fifth inning where they showed they know how to really swing the bats. Leah Storey and Kaylee Napolitano got base hits and they both scored. Yani Kostopoulos crushed the ball for a double, Ava Cole got a base hit and Kostopoulos scored. Then following another double, Cole scored. Windham also pushed across another run before the inning was through.

We have been working on having selective short-term memory loss,” said Windham Coach Stephen Napolitano. “We learn from our mistakes but don't carry being down into the next plays. We still made some errors tonight, but our girls never got shaken.”

Windham certainly wasn’t shaken as they came out ready to put runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Kaylee Napolitano bunted for a base hit. Kostopoulos also got a base hit and scored and Napolitano scored and Cole doubled.

In the second inning, Windham’s Chloe Delewski walked and later scored. Anderson got a base hit, and

she scored. And in the third inning, hits from Storey, Napolitano and Kostopoulos boosted Windham’s lead to 6-1 over Freeport.

Windham’s defense was great against Freeport too. Windham made several solid plays where they got the ball quickly to first base or threw a runner out on their way around the diamond. <

Soccer official Robert Wassick enjoys staying involved with a game he loves

By Matt Pascarella

Official Robert Wassick has been officiating soccer for roughly 17 years. He coached his kids in travel recreational soccer leagues, but once his kids left the leagues, he still wanted to remain connected to the sport.

Wassick who is honored as this week’s “Official of the Week,” says for him it’s a great way to stay in shape and he really enjoys watching a good game that is played fairly, where everyone plays hard, but clean.

Robert Wassick of Windham is being
honored as this week's 'Official of the
Week' by The Windham Eagle. He has
been officiating soccer games for 17
years and currently officiates games
at the prep varsity level but is certified
to officiate games from the rec level
through middle school up to varsity. 
He said that he became an official to stay involved with soccer after he stopped coaching. He became an official through the Western Maine Board of Approved Soccer Officials (WMBASO). Their website describes the organization as a group that provides officials for high school and junior high soccer games in Southern Maine. WMBASO has a training program for new officials that runs every year.

Wassick does more Windham games now that his kids aren’t in the schools. He does officiate mostly varsity, but depending on where he is needed, he can officiate games from middle school on up.

“I really love the game and it keeps me involved at a level where I can still help the players learn the rules of the game a little better which makes them better players. It also keeps me active from a physical standpoint. I can't just go for a run as it bores me; but doing a varsity game, I get plenty of running in without thinking about it, maybe three to four miles ... depending on the quality of the teams,” he said.

Since he’s been an official for a little while, he’s been able to tune out any criticism that might happen during a game. Sometimes, complaints are going to come in no matter what.

Wassick enjoys watching the competition and watching the kids play a solid game.

“Besides being involved in a good competitive game which I don't have to pay to watch and get paid to
do,” he said. “I enjoy the physical activity I get from doing games and also to see quality players who at times I have seen (play) since middle school days.” 

With the start of the season on the horizon, Wassick is not overly concerned about COVID-19. For the athletes, as long as they limit the amount of high fives, don’t share drinks, keep their mouthpieces in as much as possible and keep their distance from other players when not in the game they should be okay.

He said it will affect him based on the amount of games played as the season is going to be at least four games shorter at the varsity level. “Monitor (athlete’s) temperatures daily, (wear) a face covering as much as possible, coaches especially, only one person per seat on the bus and to be aware of what can happen to their family members (who are at) high risk.”

Wassick has been married for 33-plus years and has four children. He is a graduate of the University of Maine with a Bachelor of Science in Wood Science.

He is a Safety and Training Administrator for Portland Public Works after retiring from the Portland Fire Department as Deputy Chief, a job he performed for 31 years. Aside from officiating, he enjoys mountain biking in Maine’s many wooded areas. <

Friday, September 11, 2020

The fall season: A reporter's perspective

The Windham High School volleyball team gathers
before a match last season. The start of a new fall
sports season could begin soon if hurdles with
state agencies are overcome and health and
safety measures are implemented.
By Matt Pascarella
The Maine Principals Association (MPA) and the state are going back and forth over whether or not there should be a fall sports season and how to safely accomplish this during a pandemic. The MPA released a statement Wednesday, Sept. 9 and by the time this is read a decision will hopefully have been made and we can all stop waiting. The preseason has been postponed a few times and it is now set to begin on Sept. 14. As a reporter, who will be entering his fourth season reporting Windham and Raymond sports, I’d like to share with you my feelings on the possibility of a season. 
You might think as a sports reporter I’d be all in for a season, but it’s not a simple ‘yes or no.’ Of course, I want to get back out there, report on games and watch the kids play again. Like many, I miss it. The coronavirus has brought up some real concerns when it comes to coverage. I worry about coming in close contact and am no longer able to interview players and coaches the same way I use to. I won’t be able to stand close to the team while photographing and will have to be cognizant of my distance when I’m close(r) to a player on the field or court. When it comes to coronavirus, nothing is as easy as it used to be., while I have concerns and even some anxiety about covering fall sports, there is an aspect of having all seasons that I hadn’t considered and that’s the mental health of the athletes. Sports are an outlet for many kids and a way to learn values, skills, make friends and understand the importance of teamwork. This ‘new normal’ (which is not at all normal) will be a big adjustment and probably
will require some retooling and rethinking along the way.
So, where do I stand on the fall season? Well, like I said, I’m nervous about getting back out there, because this is a contagious virus that could be easily caught, even if you’re doing all the right things. Ultimately though, I think there should be a season. Sports are about the kids. It’s important for the student athletes, who already missed out on spring season, to get the chance to play in the fall. Like I wrote in my last update on the status of the season, this is completely uncharted territory. At the very least, the season should be given a chance, if it turns out it won’t work, then at least we know.
As long as athletes and coaches are smart about their interactions and they follow the guidelines set by the state and the Maine Center for Disease Control, it’s beneficial for student athletes to get back out there.
Hopefully, they get that opportunity. <

Windham Little League's Fall Ball season approaching

Kaylee Napolitano rushes up the first base line
during a Windham Little League softball game
earlier this summer. A new fall season for Windham
Little League starts soon.
By Matt Pascarella
Windham Little League is gearing up for its fall ball season. It will be very similar to the summer season, with the exception of fewer teams in the league and more playing of teams from other towns.
Although registration has ended for the season, here’s a quick look at what the season will look like.
The delaying of the season for high school fall sports hasn’t affected Windham Little League’s fall ball season. Baseball is in the ‘moderate risk’ section from the state. The league will continue to use the safety plan that worked well during the summer and keep it going into the fall.
When they aren’t on the field, players will remain along the first and third base lines and one on-deck batter and one other batter will be in the traditional dugout.
One thing different about the fall season is in addition to hosting games, Windham teams will travel to a few surrounding towns for away games. Windham will be playing Gorham, Gray New Gloucester, Freeport, Falmouth, and Cumberland North Yarmouth in both divisions – baseball and softball.
Of the 70 kids who registered, there will be six teams: a softball majors division team, two baseball majors division teams, a baseball minors division player-pitch team and a baseball minors division coach-pitch coed team. are not required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) unless they are coming in close contact with a player or umpire. There will still be base coaches, but the coach’s area will be larger. 
Hand sanitizer will be available; it is required for players as they enter the facility and coming on and
off the field. Water will not be provided, and sunflowers seeds are prohibited.
There will be designated fan spots behind the outfield fence for spectator attendance and will be limited to 100 people. Spectators should use social distancing practices and wear a face mask; avoiding direct contact with individuals not from their household. 
The season will hopefully go until mid-October, depending on the weather.
Windham Little League President Caleb Davenport said he does not have concerns for the upcoming season.
“Coming off a successful summer season, I feel we created a safe plan and environment for the kids to keep playing,” he said. <

Officiating a lifelong passion for Windham’s Bill Dineen

Bill Dineen of Windham  is being honored as
this week's 'Official of the Week' by
The Windham Eagle. His favorite sport to
officiate is football and he will be
entering his 19th year of doing that this fall.
By Matt Pascarella
Official Bill Dineen has been involved with sports his entire life. He was a three-sport athlete in high school. His interest in officiating started when his boys played Little League Baseball. He then became a certified basketball official where he calls games from recreation through varsity.
Dineen, who is honored as this week’s “Official of the Week” for The Windham Eagle, says that his favorite sport to officiate is football and he will be entering his 19th year this season. He had the privilege of being an official for one of Windham’s state championship football games. For Dineen, being an official is truly a passion.
When his boys finished Little League, he volunteered with the league to be a home plate umpire. He did that for eight seasons. He found it very rewarding and knew the importance of calling a good game.
This will be his 28th year as a member of Board 21 International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO). 
According to their website, this organization has 200 local boards of officials in over 38 states and 11 foreign countries. For Dineen, he cannot imagine his winters without basketball games.
In the fall Dineen said, “There is nothing like being on the field for a good football game no matter what the level.” was chosen to be the white hat, who basically manages the game and all rulings. He feels a lot of pride when he’s chosen for a championship or specialty game.
“It is a rewarding feeling to be chosen for such a large role in a great game. I have been chosen four times and also have worked the prestigious Lobster Bowl,” he said.
Something people might not realize is officials meet every Tuesday night during the season to stay
fresh and talk about game situations. Over the years, he has met some wonderful friends through sports and officiating.
Dineen tries not to get involved in the drama that may happen off the court or field during a game. The majority of fans he’s met are respectful. He does it for the athletes, not the fans. There are times when he says you need a thick skin, though.
When it comes to COVID-19 precautions, Dineen thinks as long as we continue to practice what the Center for Disease Control has been telling us, we should be all right. “Sports are such a big part of the student athlete’s lives and we create so many friendships along the way,” he said. He respects whatever decisions are ultimately made by the Maine Principals Association. Dineen knows there will be a learning curve during the season and says Maine has done a great job to get us into this position.
“If mask(s) are necessary, then mask(s) will be worn. I plan on giving my games more breaks if needed along with good hydration. I am sure all  area coaches will be on board with whatever is necessary to make it a good experience for all.”
He is a father of two sons and his wife has been at the high school education level for 31 years. They have five grandchildren who are their pride and joy and feel very blessed. He also has two fantastic daughters-in-law who have been involved in sports through cheering and their own sports.
“Enjoy the ride,” he says. “It flies by.” <

Friday, September 4, 2020

For Amy Prescott, being an official is being part of the solution

Amy Prescott has been
officiating games in
Windham for 13 years
and is being honored
as this week's 'Official
of the Week' by The
Windham Eagle newspaper.
By Matt Pascarella
Amy Prescott has been officiating games in Windham for 13 years and she became an official because she was a frustrated parent.
Prescott, who is honored as The Windham Eagle’s Official of the Week,” said that she feels if you’re going to complain, be part of the solution. She felt she could bring the quality of Maine officials up in both the areas of game quality and to help eliminate racism and be a role model for young women.
She started out officiating basketball. One of her town police officers helped her become an official. At the time, volleyball was one of the fastest growing girls’ sports and was also a whistle sport, so she asked to become a volleyball official. Currently, she only officiates high school and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) volleyball.
Prescott is certified to call games at all schools and colleges in the state of Maine.
Officials can be criticized for certain calls or try to be persuaded by coaches to see it their way.
“We honestly have no pony in the game and so the outcome or the winner is of no consequence to us. My goal is to be there for the athletes, their safety, fairness and giving them the best game that I possibly can. That is paramount for me,” said Prescott.
Since the pandemic began, she hasn’t officiated any games.
“I am very concerned,” says Prescott. “We will see what works and what doesn’t work.”
Prescott has questions and expects there will be more guidelines as gameday gets closer. She has purchased masks and electronic whistles. She will be having a discussion with her board members. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has put out a video for officials to prepare them as we head into the Fall season.
For Prescott, safety is the biggest reason she is an official. They have guidelines to follow just like the schools do.“We have changed our protocols to accommodate, keeping social distancing from the teams where possible. The balls will be sanitized, between service changes, we will not be swapping sides unless one side has a distinct advantage, and common sense among other things.”
Her advice to athletes playing during this time is to wear a mask, hand sanitize and wash your hands when you can. Her advice to coaches is to keep the team positive. It’s important they play safe and have patience while everyone figures out how to work through the season.
Prescott’s favorite thing about being an official is she gets to hang out with athletes a bit, enjoy their
accomplishments and she gets excited for them. She also feels their disappointment when they miss a hard-fought rally.
“It's a great sport; for me it's all about the athletes.” She encourages anyone to become an official to be part of the solution.
Prescott has two boys who are both athletes. She played sports in high school, primarily softball. She’s also played wallyball, softball and volleyball in several adult leagues.
She graduated from the University of Southern Maine and currently works as a system server engineer. Obviously she has a deep love of sports. <