WILMINGTON — Wilmington athletic director Mia Muzzio provided an athletics update to the school committee at its meeting last Wednesday night, highlighting some changes and areas of focus. Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand mentioned before we started that it seemed timely to discuss the registration and process for adding new sports.
Muzio began by discussing some pilot MIAA activities 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 goal was to better understand athlete behaviors and language and confirm the league’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
They also required coaches and athletic directors to take an implicit bias course. The other pilot was a discriminatory incident report form to help the MIAA know if and when situations occur.
Melissa Plowman asked if this report would capture events that take place outside of games, such as time spent in the locker room after practice. Muzio said she understands that would be the case.
“Whether it’s with another team or not, we always have a responsibility to report it.”
David Ragsdale shared that he was not comfortable with students signing the DEI Pledge.
“I’m a big supporter of equity efforts in the district,” he said. “I don’t necessarily like the idea that you have to commit to DEI.”
However, MJ Byrnes said diversity, equity and inclusion are part of sportsmanship and teamwork.
“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 said she thinks it will help start conversations with students who may not be aware that their language is not appropriate or sensitive.
She said, “To me, that’s an anti-discrimination pledge.”
Next, Muzio talked about turnout numbers, which she said are slowly declining in the same way as registrations in the districts. She said there were 296 student athletes this fall. She mentioned that high school sports relies heavily on high school students to support freshman teams.
However, she said using college waivers is not a long-term solution to the lack of attendance. She did not want to limit college attendance, but to maximize high school attendance.
“I feel like we need to reset, go 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 positively.”
She stated her intention to be proactive and find new ways to engage middle school students to join them when they are in high school.
Bryson asked if there was a correlation between coming to high school and playing on a high school team as a middle schooler.
“I hear what you’re saying, but maybe that’s an incitement,” she said.
Bryson also asked about the college sports night the other night, which Muzzio said saw 50 parents and students in attendance. She also said they wanted to make it a tradition and have another event in the spring.
She named some considerations to make when adding new sports: student interest, being in the best interest of students, and the ability to uphold Title 9 and have options for boys and girls. Then the new sport must be approved by the school committee before it can join the league.
She said that while cooperative programs with other schools are encouraged, they are meant to generate interest so that each school can eventually organize its own teams.
Byrnes asked if information about new sports could be posted on the athletic department’s website so students could access it. Muzio replied that she would make it available.
Finally, she mentioned that tickets for the Thanksgiving football games would be available the following Monday at the school’s front door. She encouraged the purchase of presale tickets as she expects them to sell out. Pre-sale tickets are $5 or $7 and game day tickets will be $10. Anyone with questions, she said, can contact the athletic department.
She ended by announcing that the winter sports would start in a week and a half.