With district decision deadline looming, ConVal golfer lobbies for shot at state tournament

  • Brady Proctor golfs for ConVal at the Shattuck in 2019. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/7/2020 12:02:55 PM

ConVal’s golf team made a last push to participate in the NHIAA tournament this week, but whether or not the district will allow any student-athletes to compete remains to be seen.

ConVal senior co-captain Brady Proctor said he trained all summer ahead of what would have been his final season on the links.

“This year we have a few new players on our team and we were really excited to kick the season off,” Proctor said. 

As ConVal rolled out its reopening plan, it was clear that Cougar sports would look a lot different this fall; while the NHIAA, the state’s high school sports governing body, left sports decisions up to the individual districts, ConVal’s Blue and Gold cohort system did not allow for students in different cohorts to mix.

Initially, ConVal athletics were presented in a three-tiered, three-phased structure mirroring the NHIAA’s  recommendations. Sports like golf and cross-country were considered “lower risk,” volleyball and soccer “moderate risk,” and football “high risk.” ConVal began the year in Phase One, which allowed teams – regardless of risk level – to participate in outdoor training sessions only. If the School Board approved a move to Phase Two, then lower-risk sports could begin competing in competitive scrimmages and games, and by Phase Three, all sports teams could participate in all levels of NHIAA competition, including tournaments and jamborees. 

Neither the School Board nor district administration have moved to advance beyond Phase One.

“The high school administration developed an educational reopening plan based on the Blue and Gold Cohort model and feel that this model provides our students and community the safest way to return to the classroom,” Con Val athletic director John Reitnauer wrote in an email to a parent in late September. “Principal McKillop and I believe strongly in this model, and that allowing our students to mix cohorts and participate in even a low level risk event could jeopardize the health and safety of our students and the ConVal Community.”

Proctor said he is taking the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously and understands the need to keep the ConVal community virus-free by following the CDC’s guidelines. However, he said, he feels that the district has gone far beyond those guidelines to a draconian extent. 

“The frustration I feel right now towards the ConVal School Board is one that I have not felt in a very long time,” Proctor said. “It is sheer helplessness. We are trying to sit down and have conversations about sports at ConVal and it seems like only one side is willing to compromise anything.”

Golf teams at other schools around the state – and even in the region, at Mascenic and Conant – are participating in NHIAA competition this fall with no reported COVID-19 outbreaks at this time.

“I think golf has been shown to be as safe a sport that can be played during this time of the pandemic,” said ConVal golf coach Michael Young. “Many schools have been playing this season and I have not heard of any infection as a result. So, yes, I believe golf can be played in a safe fashion.”

While the Orioles and Vikings are out playing at the Shattuck and Bretwood, ConVal’s golfers are reduced to practicing on a grassy knoll at the high school (“I can’t hit anything above my pitching wedge due to the size of space we were given,” Proctor said), kept separate from half of their teammates by the geographic cohorts that practice every other week. Proctor said he has been separated from his co-captain Brigham Boice the entire season because Proctor is from Antrim and Boice is from Peterborough. 

“I would like to think that we would have been able to push each other to improve if we were allowed to spend our final golf year together,” Proctor said. “I also find it weird that I can not be around him due to him being a resident of Peterborough, the town where I work and spend 10 hours every weekday, yet ConVal is sending me to school with kids from Wilton, Rindge, Greenfield, and Conant High School. Why is it safer for me to be with kids from these areas yet not be able to see my teammates?”

Proctor made the state tournament as an individual last year and hoped to compete in this year’s Division III tournament, scheduled for Oct. 13 at Derryfield Country Club. Coach Young said that given the opportunity, he would enter Proctor and skilled sophomore golfer Wyatt Burbank in that tournament.

“In the past, the school has never refused to enter a team or individual that has qualified for the tournament who wanted to play,” Young said. 

In order to compete in the state tournament, ConVal’s golfers would need to be approved by the district before Thursday’s NHIAA deadline. The issue was raised at Tuesday’s School Board meeting, where board members said they would table the discussion for the time being. ConVal superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders said Wednesday that that discussion was expected to take place later that day, after press time. 

“I don’t understand ConVal’s hesitation to do what other schools have been safely doing for weeks,” Proctor said. “I feel as if the athletic department and the school board have shut down over all the criticisms they have been receiving lately and are refusing to listen to the ConVal population. I hope that the school board and athletic department will start listening to our concerns instead of hiding behind blanket rules and unfair conditions. Many kids rely on sports for mental health and we need to balance the safety of our student’s physical health with the safety of our students’ mental health.”


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