It’s going to be a staggered start to the 2020 fall sports season for Rhode Island Interscholastic League member schools.

Per recommendations made last week by the state’s health and education departments, games and scrimmages in sports that fall under the moderate-risk category should not be allowed until Friday, Oct. 9. What that means is soccer (boys and girls) and field hockey will not be joining cross-country (boys and girls), tennis and sideline cheer on the RIIL’s previously scheduled opening weekend of Oct. 2-3.

The official start date for practice remained Sept. 21. Friday marked the conclusion of the week-long in-school coaching period for fall sports only.

Friday also saw the Interscholastic League determine a way that ensures soccer and field hockey programs are able to get the game back that previously would have taken place on Oct. 2-3. The aforementioned contest was shifted to the end of the regular season, a move that will limit the playoffs.

As a reminder of how everything these days remains a constant state of flux, the league’s “The Safe Return of Education-Based Athletics” blueprint that was released last month stated that a two-week postseason would come on the heels of a six-week regular season. As part of the same presentation, the RIIL reserved the right to adjust the playoffs accordingly.

Soccer, field hockey, and tennis programs will compete in six league games/matches while cross country teams can look forward to participating in four dual meets. In terms of regular season games as it relates to playoff chances and seeding, the Interscholastic League doesn’t want coaches and players subscribing to the belief that they’ll be on the outside looking in should games succumb to health-related matters.

“The playoff qualifications in each sport is a fluid process right now. We’re exploring a lot of options based on how the fall season unfolds,” said RIIL Assistant Director Tom Marcello when reached Friday. “We want kids to focus on participation in the regular season and our intent is to offer a postseason for each sport.”

As the RIIL readies itself for the fall sports that are on tap, it continues to hear pleas from the football and volleyball (girls and unified) community. Those two sports were shifted to the gap season – Season 3 of the league’s 2020-21 four-season approach – per the recommendation of the governor’s office.

High school volleyball’s status as an indoor activity was a major holdup in its quest to join the fall sports lineup, yet there’s another important wrinkle to consider when weighing why the sport was postponed to a later date.

At St. Raphael, the school’s primary gym for indoor sporting events such as volleyball and basketball has been transformed into a makeshift classroom in an effort to space out the learning area for students and teachers. A number of schools around the state have adopted a similar approach to their gymnasiums and fieldhouses, hence compromising the required space to stage volleyball contests.

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