May 29, 2020 by Joshua Ross (photo by Joshua Ross Photography)
While most of the attention the past 2+ months has understandably been focused around academics, Coach Q has been busy behind the scenes working with the state, the leagues, his coaches, and the administration to make sure the Hingham High School Athletic Program is ready to go, whenever that may be. The Anchor caught up with Jim Quatromoni, the HHS Athletic Director, to get some insight on what's been happening since the COVID-19 shutdown and what the future may hold.
With most of the attention and focus on the district’s academic plans and response, can you give us an update on what you and your staff have been doing during this time?
Almost immediately, we began creating or reinforcing chains of communication between our coaches and student-athletes. Initially, we were meeting regularly with our spring coaches to stay connected and trade information about ways that we could effectively jump-start a delayed spring season. As the state association then relaxed some of the guidelines with regards to contact, we were able to be more interactive with our student-athletes and let our coaches have sport-specific zoom meetings with teams. Since the spring season officially canceled, it’s become about finding ways to recognize our student-athletes, particularly our seniors, for what they have accomplished at Hingham High School. We have had weekly meetings to brainstorm ideas on how to do that, and then most importantly trying to find unique ways to keep our kids engaged not only for the betterment of their athletic futures but just to make sure they are mentally staying fresh. Now, in conjunction with that, a large majority of our focus has shifted to fall sports and discussing ways throughout our weekly meetings about how we will go about implementing whatever guidelines come down from the CDC, DPH, and the Governor’s office. I am fortunate enough to serve on the MIAA’s COVID-19 Task Force which is exploring ways that we can safely have spring coaches potentially connect in person with athletes this summer, and also working to ensure that any return to play this fall is done in an efficient and proper manner that follows each and every guideline prescribed.
How are the coaches holding up?
I think the coaches are anxious. Spring Coaches have been consumed with how their student-athletes are managing this situation and the loss of a season. I think the fall coaches are starting to realize that their season is very likely to be impacted in some way by COVID-19 and how we can safely return to play. Our weekly meetings have been valuable as each season can talk, share experiences to date, ask any questions they may have with regards to the situation, and it just gives everyone a chance to share ideas on how to enhance the student-athlete experience during times like these.
Have you heard from any athletes, and what’s your sense of how they are doing?
I think that our kids are resilient. I sense sadness and certainly a sense of loss. One of the hardest parts of this situation for me personally, has been the loss of constant interaction with student-athletes. That is truly the best part of my job. I think our students, just like everyone out there, are struggling being away not only from the softball diamond or the football but also just competing with each other. It's up to us to make sure that we do everything we can to assure that they get back to having those shared experiences in as quick a manner is safely possible.
Are there any plans to honor the Seniors who didn’t get a chance to compete in their final HHS season?
In normal times, we would have our Senior Athletic Awards Ceremony. That is a special night for the athletic department to recognize the participation of our senior student-athletes over the course of their time at Hingham High School. At this time, we are working with the town to create an event that would combine academic awards and the athletic awards ceremonies. I am not ready to share the details but know that we are looking at a June 13th date.
Hingham has a long history of athletes continuing their careers at college, regardless of division. How will the recruiting process be affected for current sophomores and juniors looking to play at the next level?
The sophomores and juniors are absolutely the group that is affected. My own daughter is caught up in this dilemma. The loss of the spring season and non-school related events have eliminated countless opportunities for exposure. I do think that as we get to a place that we can return to play, opportunities will be created. There will be a void that groups will step up and fill. This will likely happen on the club and/or AAU level. It will be important for our staff to be aware of or uncover these opportunities to put our student-athletes and their families in the best position to play at the next level. This will be something that I am working on to connect with people that may be involved in creating these opportunities.
What are the plans for summer workouts that typically happen?
I am currently serving on the MIAA COVID-19 Task Force. This group is considering all issues related to return to play. We will then produce best practice guidelines for districts to consider. The plan for summer workouts remains in development. The CDC, DPH, and Governor’s office guidelines are being interpreted. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) will be releasing their second set of advisories on June 1. This is likely to be a comprehensive document that will help guide our thinking.
The sense is professional sports, when they come back, will play with no fans. Is this something high schools will consider in the fall?
Unfortunately, that is something that is on the table. One local community has already made a public statement that they will no fans will be permitted when fall sporting events begin. I expect that the MIAA COVID-19 Task Force will provide guidelines on this topic. Operationally, our district leadership will also need to consider options.
When the decision is finally made about the fall sports, and beyond, will you take your direction from MIAA, the League, the School District, or a combination of all of the above?
In the end, I believe that potentially the CDC, DPH and/or the Governor’s Office will make 80% of the decisions that we will need to make surrounding return to play for us. Those remaining decisions will be made considering MIAA and NFHS guidance. In the end, our district leadership team will make the final decision on what safely returning to play will look like this Fall at Hingham High School.
The School Committee, Board of Selectmen, and Advisory Committee all voted on a new financial plan, which would trigger huge budget reductions to the School Budget, including sports, in the case of revenue shortfalls. Do you anticipate any reduction to the number of sports offered by HHS in the fall? Or an increase in the sports fees to maintain the current teams?
Currently, I am not anticipating any changes in sports offered by Hingham High School or an increase in our sports user fees.