Millis’ Grant: ‘Approval to Play Fall Sports Would Be a Blessing’
Aug 31, 2020 12:31PM
By KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
EDITOR’S NOTE: At Local Town Pages deadline, neither Governor Baker nor the Department of Education had ruled on the status of interscholastic sports for the fall.
Chuck Grant knows a thing or two about interscholastic athletics.
Now in his 18th year as Millis High’s athletic director, the 56-year-old Grant has seen the Mohawks win a plethora of championships — 20 Sectional crowns and 14 State titles.
But, in dealing with a pandemic that’s claimed thousands of lives, the veteran athletic director admits that last spring’s school cancellations that wiped out sports was different.
He emphasizes that educators were in “unprecedented territory.’’
“There was no preparation for dealing with a pandemic,’’ he said. “We had the Blizzard of 1978 and Triple E last fall, but never anything like this. All one can do is adjust day by day, be aware of all the hurdles and be ready to assume responsibility.’’
Grant, like so many other athletic directors, is awaiting a decision on fall sports. Are they on or off?
“It would be a blessing if we get the go-ahead to have a fall season,’’ Grant noted. “A reduced season with no non-league games would be welcomed. I just want a situation where kids get an opportunity to compete. It’s difficult to imagine a new school year beginning with no sports. Interscholastic athletics is the epicenter of social life for students, and without sports there’s a giant void.’’
Grant, however, is acutely aware of the big picture, knowing that athletics is merely a small part of a large picture. “The priority is the health and safety of everyone — students, teachers, families, our state and country,’’ he emphasized. “Many generations have had to make sacrifices. The students and athletes who’ve had to cope with this virus have learned a lesson in how to deal with and overcome adversity. It’s a valuable life lesson but it’s come early for them.’’
Grant isn’t sure if athletics will be part of the fall season or whether they’ll return in the winter or spring. But, he is sure there’ll be changes. Major changes.
“Social distancing likely will be in effect at games,’’ Grant said. “You’ll have the participants competing with students and parents attending. Town-wide fans may not be able to attend because of crowd limitations. There’ll be changes in locker-rooms, training rooms and weight rooms. All three will be utilized in different ways. Locker-rooms may be a thing of the past, probably not used after games. Buses will be an issue. They’ll be at a premium and we may be forced to change times of games, so parents can transport their kids. And, hand-sanitizing stations will be provided to ensure health.’’
Grant’s background in athletics and as an educator is impressive. Before taking the administrative reins at Millis, he was an assistant ice hockey coach for Harvard’s women’s team. Before his role at Harvard, Grant coached and taught at Walpole High for 11 years. He taught history, law and banking, and he coached football, baseball, ice hockey and track. During his eight years as the Rebels varsity grid coach, his teams won two of three Super Bowls (Tewksbury and Lincoln-Sudbury)
A native of Walpole, Grant graduated in 1981 from Walpole High where he played football, hockey and baseball. A goalie in hockey, he was selected as the Bay State Conference’s MVP as a senior. After a year at the Taft School in Connecticut, he enrolled at Providence College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business and history. Grant has a Masters in school administration from Cambridge College.
Grant revealed that all the TVL’s athletic directors were prepared for whatever adjustments were needed to compete last spring. When word came that schools would remain closed and that no sports would be scheduled, it was a first for the seasoned athletic director.
“Three times athletic directors changed schedules, going with a full slate, to no non-league contests, then to a reduced format,’’ Grant said. “The pro leagues set the tone when they shut down. Their message was that the situation was serious, and they were going dormant. For me, it was very different. My job is all about relationships with student-athletes and an awareness that every game is special. I felt badly for the kids. Our senior class was poised for a great spring.’’
Grant kept tabs on what direction other states were going and how they were leaning. “A magazine (A.D. Insider) offered Zoom meetings and all sorts of ideas were offered — like shortening seasons, flipping seasons, and proceeding with guidelines for distancing, etc.,’’ Grant said. “Once we knew sports were off for the spring, my emphasis was to allow the kids’ sadness to subside, then let them legitimize their feelings of being cheated. What followed was a time to teach how sports can be a positive. Sports put kids in situations to be composed.’’
Grant also knew that his coaches didn’t need to be pushed, because they were striving to keep their players ready. “If you have a good staff, an A.D. doesn’t have to worry,’’ he said. “They had no assurances, yet their players were ready. I gave them the information that painted a realistic picture. Then, the spike hit and there were no spring sports.’’
While Grant sympathized with seniors last spring because “they lost their final chance to play for Millis,’’ he also understood the disappointment for the other three classes. “Juniors lost the opportunity to showcase their talent and possibly earn a scholarship and freshmen and sophomores were cheated out of a valuable learning experience — a chance to be a varsity athlete and aspire to potentially setting records,’’ Grant said.
Like so many other A.D.s, a summer of uncertainty has not been easy for Grant. But, he said, “ You have to temper your enthusiasm and keep expectations realistic. The key is to avoid letting your emotions be like a yo-yo. Limit the ups and downs, stay on an even keel and minimize disappointment, if it occurs. You control what you can by adjusting to various situations. The summer tested our character and leadership. When you’re under pressure, there’s a need to be poised, calm, tough and confident.’’