Grant Optimistic Fall Sports Will Return To Normalcy
Millis A.D. liked how students coped with Covid-19By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Millis High Athletic Director Chuck Grant is extremely optimistic that the fall sports season will completely return to normalcy in September.
“The key to our return to normalcy is greatly dependent on our ability to sustain our trending numbers,’’ Grant emphasized. “Certainly, a big part of those trending numbers will be our ability to support them through vaccinations.’’
Interscholastic sports were able to get the State’s okay to compete last fall after the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) canceled sports during the spring of 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. To compete for the 2020-21 school year, modifications were imposed that included wearing masks, social distancing, crowd limits, hand-sanitizing, and limited numbers on buses.
“Those restrictions worked out because everyone abided by them,’’ Grant said. “Most everyone understood that was the new normal. I’d say that 97 percent of fans bought into the changes.’’
The Mohawks’ fall teams — boys’ and girls’ soccer, golf, and cross-country — got athletics underway in 2020. Their schedules were shortened and no tournament play was allowed.
“Our boys’ cross-country team played very well, going 4-1,’’ Grant said. “The other teams didn’t reach .500 but the season was all about participating and all about providing opportunities. We kept bus rides shorter by playing Tri Valley League Large Division schools.’’
The teams that competed during the winter included boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ ice hockey, girls’ gymnastics, and boys’ and girls’ indoor track.
“Five boys played ice hockey for Hopedale’s co-op team,’’ Grant said, “and they were ultra-successful. The girls’ basketball team posted a 10-2 record and were runners-up to Medway for the TVL Small Division title. We had to postpone some games but we had no cancellations at the varsity level. There were no quarantines in the fall but during the winter season only the boys’ basketball team and the boys’ and girls’ track teams escaped quarantines.’’
The Fall 2 season, which ran from late February to late April, included football and volleyball.
“We had a 1-5 season in football and volleyball was 4-4 in league play,’’ Grant said. “Our football squad gave great efforts against Bellingham, Dover, and Norton. And, when they faced Bellingham, the eventual small division champion, they scored 14 points, the most points registered against Bellingham.’’
Grant called the Fall 2 season “a great idea.’’
“We didn’t lose focus on health and safety,’’ he said. “Sports were a distraction from the pandemic. People wanted something to make the virus a fading memory. The season worked because the protocols were in force and our support personnel was crucial to the season’s success. This was the first time that fans were allowed to be at away games, definitely a step towards normalcy.’’
The spring season included baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, boys’ and girls’ track, girls’ tennis, and boys’ volleyball.
The softball team had a 14-2 record and the baseball squad was 4-12 with one game remaining at Local Town Pages’ deadline. Both contingents opted to enter the playoffs. The girls’ tennis team was 2-11 with one match still on tap and the boys’ volleyball team finished at 5-9. Both of those squads decided to forego tourney play. The track teams, both winless at 0-4, were set to compete in both the Tri-Valley League meet and the State competition.
“Early in the spring we had to adhere to modifications,’’ Grant noted, “but we were able to compete without masks for the last 30 percent of the season. We got a full season in for all the teams and that was a big plus for the kids. And, it was great to finally have a season where sectional and state tourneys were a reality again.’’
Grant was delighted with the way Millis High student-athletes, especially the senior class, handled the Covid-19 situation. “We were fortunate to have a senior class that enforced protocols inside and out,’’ he emphasized. “They were disappointed at times but they worked to control what they could and they re-focused to stay positive.’’
Grant has a way of maintaining perspective and he has a terrific ability to remain flexible. He said he often had to adjust and adapt to changes during the school year. His job was all about maintaining a calm approach to any and all changes required by local and state officials.
Grant said Athletic Directors had to learn to expect the unexpected. “We had to read the data, find resources on the data, and be prepared at all times. The key is staying focused 24-7 and be willing to accept responsibility. A.D.s know they’ll be creating disappointment but the key is to make everyone’s health and safety the No. 1 priority.’’
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 School 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 master’s in school administration from Cambridge College.
Hopeful that administrators will never have to deal with another pandemic, Grant said the summer of 2020, leading up to schools re-opening in September, was a very difficult time.
“When you’re not in control, it’s tough to watch numbers being analyzed,’’ he said. “It was all about keeping hope alive for the kids and keeping coaches engaged. It was agonizing but the results worked out well. What we had last fall was much better than zero.’’