This fall, East Greenwich High School’s Field Hockey, Girls Soccer, and Boys Soccer teams all won the state championship in the span of one weekend. And cross country runner Reese Fahys placed first at states the weekend before. Girls Tennis’s Maddie Omicioli made it to the state singles championship. It was a heady fall season.
And all of it – stringent COVID-19 restrictions and all – under a new athletic director, Casie Rhodes.
“It was fun to watch [the players], and then to win — that’s always a bonus,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes took over as athletic director in October, replacing 10-year veteran Chris Cobain, who accepted North Kingstown’s AD position this past summer. An EGHS alum of the Class of ‘98, Rhodes is familiar with the sports programs at the high school and an enthusiastic supporter. She was a three-sport athlete in soccer, basketball, and softball.
“Sports is such a humongous piece of my life,” said Rhodes. “I played three sports in high school; I played two in college. I’ve been in sports my whole life.”
Rhodes left her long-standing position as the director of sports training at Rhode Island Special Olympics to become EGHS’s new AD.
“I had been in Special Olympics for 13 years, [and] I absolutely loved that organization,” she said. “It really turned me into the person that I am today, for multiple reasons…. It’s a phenomenal organization. It was very difficult for me to leave.”
Rhodes began her work with R.I. Special Olympics as a junior at EGHS. At the time, Rhodes had a cousin involved with the program. Rhodes’ aunt presented an opportunity for her to volunteer alongside her cousin, and she’s been part of Special Olympics ever since.
“I went along and never stopped,” said Rhodes. “I volunteered. I was a Unified partner. I was an assistant coach for Coach [Lisa] McKay, who’s an Adapted Phys Ed teacher in the district. I ended up volunteering for her on the North Kingstown program. I went to National games. I went to World games.”
Rhodes looks forward to using her background in R.I. Special Olympics to improve the Special Ed and Unified programs at EGHS.
“There’s a lot of good things going on around here – athletically, academically – [and] a lot of things we need to work on,” she said. “I’m coming from a Special Ed background [and] Special Olympics background. I’m excited to be part of the Unified program. They have such a great program here and I want to do more with that, just get involved in the school.”
Of course, even with years of experience, Rhodes is new to the idea of conducting sports during a pandemic.
“I know what it takes to coach under non-COVID pandemic situations and our coaches here this year were unbelievable, just making sure our student athletes were safe,” she said.
“We didn’t have any quarantines in the fall season, so that allowed us to continue playing from the beginning of the season all the way through, which then allowed us to be part of the championships,” Rhodes added.
Other districts were not so lucky, with teams having to quarantine and forcing other teams into quarantine too. Rhodes said EGHS coaches did great in maintaining the Avengers’ safety.
“That’s where the coaches did a really nice job: making sure that they asked our athletes to wear the masks all the time. If they took a mask break, they walked away to take the mask break. The coaches wore their masks. Some of our coaches are teachers in the school, so they understand the purpose of it. The ones that are not [teachers] have jobs where they also know and understand that,” Rhodes said.
“And it’s always been my thing, even when I was at Special Olympics, [that] safety is first and foremost for our student athletes,” added Rhodes. “Whether we’re making sure that they’re out there participating safely with a mask on, or making sure that the conditions that they’re under – on the field or when they’re running or playing tennis – is the absolute priority. We’re gonna make sure that they’re safe at all times.”
As the number of COVID cases across Rhode Island has risen in recent weeks, there is concern regarding indoor sports. EG schools are switching to distance learning Dec. 21 through Jan. 8. If any changes are to be made to EG sports, they’ll come directly from the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s rules and guidelines. The rapid wave of changes resembles “a revolving door,” said Rhodes.
“We’re trying to figure out [the capacity limit] right now for our indoor facility, and how much we can have indoors,” said Rhodes.
If indoor sports are permitted, spectators might be excluded. Rhodes said the school is working on setting up live streaming in that eventuality.
“We have to get that [live streaming] up and running before we can get indoors,” Rhodes said. “We are working with the tech service here [at EGHS] to try to get that going…. I think that probably is our biggest challenge right now.”
Though sports look different this year, Rhodes has enjoyed her work at EGHS so far.
“So now, to see that we got that fall season in, it’s just been a great opportunity to be part of this whole thing,” she said. “Just going to those three games and watching those three championships [was] so fun because I had so many opportunities playing championships myself, but I now got to flip it and be the athletic director.”
Rhodes wants to get more members of the community involved in EG sports.
“I know when I was here, we had a lot of community involvement,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of good things going on here with sports, especially with the three championships. I think there’s a lot of good things going on with the families that are in the community right now, but if there’s even more community involvement that we can do, I’m looking forward to that.”
Aiza Shaikh, a senior at EGHS, has been an EG resident since 2008. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and eating coffee ice cream.