Public School Sports Compete with Private Schools
“Recruiting is easy for LaSalle, especially for athletes,” says South Kingstown High School’s girls soccer coach Domenic Petrarca. Petrarca attended LaSalle academy from 2002–2006 and played soccer for the LaSalle Rams all four years. After his senior year he and five of his teammates went on to play soccer in college. Petrarca went on to start at the University of Rhode Island, a competitive division one college. He now serves as the head coach of the South Kingstown girl’s soccer team.
Petrarca’s former school is also very competitive in other sports such as football. LaSalle took part in the Rhode Island High School Football Super Bowl which concluded on December 6th. The Bishop Hendricken Hawks defeated the LaSalle Rams to win their sixth championship in a row. Also, Moses Brown was victorious over St. Raphael for the division two championship. All these schools are privately run.
Out of the 14 fall sport championships in the past two years a private school has won ten of the championships. This is a trend in Rhode Island as private schools have been top tier in division one and two for many years, and in many sports.
While at LaSalle Petrarca says they won the soccer championship “all four years.” Today LaSalle is still dominant in boys’ soccer as they won the championship this year against the South Kingstown Rebels, 3–0, also won the championship two years before that.
Students from other public schools are well aware of the disadvantages and expect private schools to be playoff worthy each season. Senior soccer captain Colan Gulla said “In my four years [on the soccer team], LaSalle has been the biggest competition and the team knew they would be a challenge every year.”
Each year in Rhode Island there is an all division banquet for each sport. This year the all division soccer banquet took place on December 13 at the Crowne Plaza, Warwick.
SKHS banquet attendee Aiden McCaughey said the Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL) members “praised LaSalle the entire time. Then they started talking about how dominant they were, which truthfully they were, but they seemed to favor LaSalle.”
According to McCaughey one RIIL speaker said, “[LaSalle’s] coach didn’t even have to coach these guys, he could have gone on vacation and his team still would be amazing.”
The RIIL also created a new rule in the interscholastic football league this year. The rule stated that if a player plays any time in a varsity game they could not play the next day, Saturday, when junior varsity games take place.
Coach Tucker Brierty of the South Kingstown Rebels said, “It’s hard for most public schools to follow this rule because their teams aren’t big enough to have completely separate JV and varsity teams.
“On our team JV players play special teams or are the first kids off the bench.” said Brierty. Since the rule was made many JV games have had to be canceled due to the Rebels not having enough eligible athletes.
One possible solution was to have the JV games on Monday so all players could play on Friday games. However, this creates problems for the varsity squad.
“If the JV games are on Monday we have no scout defense team to practice against on Tuesday and our offense practices suck.” said Brierty.
The only teams with enough players to have completely separate teams, many say, are private schools like LaSalle and Bishop Hendricken. The rule made by the RIIL seems to challenge the way public schools play while not affecting private schools.
From his time at LaSalle Petrarca noticed the differences LaSalle and other private schools had from public schools. “Their athletic facilities are better than most colleges, but when I went there the football and baseball fields were terrible,” Petrarca said. These fields were completely renovated in 2006.
In addition to recruiting skilled players Petrarca said “LaSalle had more coaches to specialize for different players and positions.” Due to this Petrarca said, each player can have more individual coaching focused on their strengths and weaknesses.
Senior football player Will Moffatt, who has played against private schools for four years, believes the advantages are easy to spot. “Hendricken and LaSalle had around ten coaches, while South Kingstown has four coaches and only one is paid,” Moffatt Said.
LaSalle players are well aware of the advantages they have over other schools.
Current LaSalle soccer player Stavros Zarokostas said, “We have recruited players from all over Rhode Island and a couple from Massachusetts.” Zarokostas said this is achieved by offering full rides to athletes to their school which offer better education than most public schools. Zarokostas also noted the difference in facilities.
“I notice that most away facilities do not have AstroTurf or as nice stands and concessions as we do,” said the LaSalle senior.
In some states like New Jersey, the interscholastic league decided to separate public schools from private and Catholic schools into different leagues. This rule was newly implemented for football teams this year. Private schools were unhappy with this, but it made the competition fair.
Moffatt says perhaps it’s time Rhode Island did the same.“LaSalle just has great individual players that can always have an impact and they will always have these types of players.”