WILMINGTON — Wilmington Athletic Director Mia Muzzio delivered an athletics update for the School Committee during their meeting last Wednesday night, highlighting some changes and focus areas. Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand mentioned before she started that it seemed a timely discussion considering enrollment and the process of adding new sports.
Muzzio began by discussing some pilot activities from the MIAA for the winter season. The first was that student athletes, coaches, and the athletic director had to sign a diversity, equity, and inclusion pledge. She said the purpose of this was to gain a better understanding of athlete behaviors and language and to confirm the league’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
They were also requiring coaches and athletic directors to take an implicit bias course. The other pilot was a discriminatory incident report form to help the MIAA learn if and when situations are happening.
Melissa Plowman asked if this report would capture events happening outside of games, like time in the locker room after practice. Muzzio said her understanding was that it would.
“Whether with another team or not, we still bear the responsibility to report that.”
David Ragsdale shared that he wasn’t comfortable with students signing the DEI pledge.
“I’m a big supporter of equity efforts in the district,” he maintained. “I don’t necessarily like the idea that you have to pledge yourself to DEI.”
However, M. J. Byrnes said that diversity, equity, and inclusion were part of sportsmanship and working collaboratively as a team.
“It shows the responsibility to stand up for what’s right and what it means to be a true athlete,” she continued.
Chair Dr. Jenn Bryson also commented that she thought it would help start conversations with students who may not be aware that their language isn’t appropriate or sensitive.
She said, “To me it’s an anti-discriminatory pledge.”
Moving on, Muzzio talked about participation numbers, which she said are slowly declining similarly to district enrollment. She said there were 296 student athletes this fall. She mentioned that high school sports rely heavily on middle school students to support freshman teams.
However, she said that using middle school waivers isn’t a long-term fix for the lack of participation. She didn’t want to limit middle school participation but maximize high school participation.
“I feel like we need to reset, roll back, and figure out how to inspire students to participate in multiple sports,” she continued. “I don’t have an exact answer, but I want to look at it in a positive way.”
She declared her intention to be proactive and find new ways to engage students from the middle school level so that they join when they’re in high school.
Bryson asked if there was any correlation between coming to the high school and playing on a high school team as a middle schooler.
“I hear what you’re saying, but maybe that’s an incentive,” she said.
Bryson also asked about the middle school athletic evening the other night, which Muzzio said saw 50 parents and students in attendance. She also said they want to make it a tradition and hold another event in the spring.
She named some considerations to be made when considering adding new sports: interest among students, being in the students’ best interest, and the ability to meet title 9 and hold boys and girls options. Then, the new sport needs School Committee approval before they can join the league.
She stated that while cooperative programs with other schools are encouraged, they are meant to drum up interest so that each school can eventually hold their own separate teams.
Byrnes asked if the information for new sports could be posted on the athletic department website so that students could access it. Muzzio replied that she would make it available.
Finally, she mentioned that Thanksgiving football game tickets would be available as of the following Monday at the front door at the high school. She encouraged buying presale tickets because she expects them to sell out. Presale tickets are $5 or $7, and game day tickets will be $10. Anyone with questions, she said, can contact the Athletic Department.
She ended announcing that winter sports would be starting in a week and a half.