Boston schools athletic director Ken Still said Tuesday he is considering starting the fall season about a week later next year because this fall so many teams struggled to file paperwork mandated by the state's new concussion policy.
On Tuesday, only two of the seven scheduled soccer games were actually played. Most of the other games were canceled due to paperwork not being filed on time.
"My office has to regroup to try to push back our start time in the fall," Still said during a telephone interview on Tuesday morning. "For us, it is a very difficult period because there's so much paperwork ... we need to revamp all our paperwork to see if we can streamline it in a little better way. But you never want to streamline anything and end up with liability.
"An extra week [before the season starts] would definitely almost help,” he said. “That’s an extra five kids you got signed up and would come forward; [it would] especially [help] with soccer programs and volleyball."
This is the second straight fall that the state is enforcing a new law regarding concussion safety and awareness, specifically for the handling and reporting of concussions that all MIAA schools must follow. Players must file a head injury history form and parents must watch a concussion video or undergo a brief concussion training, usually online.
Players, parents, coaches, and athletic directors must certify they've taken the education course, and the student can't play until they file the forms.
But this is the first year that the Boston City League has truly enforced the new rules.
Tuesday was the second day of the city league soccer season, but O’Bryant-South Boston, Boston English-Madison Park, Burke-Snowden and Boston International-Charlestown were all canceled.
For the girls, Burke-West Roxbury was cancelled while Brighton-Latin Academy and East Boston-New Mission played as scheduled.
First-year Charlestown boys' soccer coach TIm Meho agreed with Still that it would be good to start the season a week week later because it’s difficult for the players to return all of their paperwork by the first week of school.
But Boston International boys soccer coach Djon Ramos thinks that it is mainly only a problem with new coaches.
“With veteran coaches, they know what to do and know to get physicals," he said. "New coaches, like in my case, only see students in school so it’s very hard for kids to give me information. I was ready though and definitely will be ready next year.”
O’Bryant boys soccer coach Ian Doreian doesn’t think the league would benefit from a later start date. He said that starting the league a week late may hurt the teams because it would be difficult to fit in all 16 games. Instead, he thinks that the problem could be fixed simply by organization.
“I think ultimately what would make it easier is if we had dedicated paperwork days so everyone gets their paperwork done early,” he said. “For coaches it’s tough because we don’t have access to report cards and physicals so a lot of times we’re caught unprepared.”
Paperwork and low participation is also an issue in football. New Mission almost had to cancel its season opener against Dorchester on Friday because it almost didn't have the paperwork in for enough of its players.
Part of the problem, according to Madison Park football coach Roosevelt Robinson, is that even after a new football player is cleared to play they have to wait three days before they can collect their equipment.
"[If a player] came in senior year and didn't play any prior sports and said 'You know what coach, I thought about it, I want to play football,' Robinson said, "because he doesn't have any prior experience, I have to put him on hold until he gets cleared by the school. Never mind what his doctor says.
"So that's a big holdup."
The city is looking at how it can boost participation in athletics across the board.
"I wish there was so much more our office could do to help," Still said.
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