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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, August 19, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesEfforts to Save Arawaks Football Highlight Other League Issues

Efforts to Save Arawaks Football Highlight Other League Issues

The recent stunning news about the possible discontinuation of the Private School Arawak Warriors football program has brought to light other systemic problems relating to tackle football in the territory – particularly the condition of the schools’ fields and the lack of funding for sports activities.

A few weeks ago, various media outlets announced that Antilles School was pulling the plug on the Arawaks program, which has operated on the Antilles campus for several years. Several different perspectives about the situation have been aired by Antilles Headmaster Michael Hughes, along with Arawaks coach Luke Neely and IAA League President Mark Daniel.

Daniel said Wednesday that he understands the school’s concerns but the question of where the football program will be housed in the future still has not been fully resolved.

In an interview with the Source, Hughes made it clear that Antilles is not pulling out of football completely. The school is just looking to find another site for the program, which has raised liability and safety concerns for the Antilles athletic staff, he added.

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"This notion that the program is dropped is not the case," Hughes said. "We do not want the program to go out of existence – the students will still be able to participate. We just don’t want to be the host school anymore, and the program will not be a school activity. It is just going to be something that the students can participate in after school."

At the heart of the argument for Hughes is whether Antilles can continue covering the liability for players injured on their field. The Arawaks team is made up of athletes from five different private schools and is headed by volunteer coaches that Hughes said are not professionally certified.

"We certainly applaud the efforts of these individuals and their dedication to the players," Hughes said. "But in this day and age, with all the liability concerns that have come out about contact sports injuries such as concussions, to have noncertified coaches and students with a variety of medical issues practicing daily on our campus, there are some pretty serious concerns raised."

Hughes said the Antilles staff has been evaluating the situation for the last two years and made the decision after extensive discussion.

For Neely, however, the news came out of the blue, leaving the Arawaks searching for a new home.

Speaking with the Source on Wednesday, Neely said that the team has been trying out several different practice fields, trying to find a site that is easily accessible for students coming from Antilles, V.I. Montessori School and International Academy, Sts. Peter and Paul, All Saints Cathedral School and the Gifft Hill School on St. John.

Both Hughes and Neely said they have turned to other school heads to take up the charge and host the program, and while Montessori has stepped up to the plate, the field is too small for the team.

"It puts us at a big time disadvantage because we have nowhere to practice – we were supposed to start practice the same week that this decision was made, so we’ve been scrambling trying to find a new place," Neely said. "We’ve been trying to practice in Smith Bay and out in Frydenhoj, but the fields are not in good shape, so it’s a difficult situation. It puts the whole program in jeopardy."

For years, Frydenhoj was the practice site for the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School football team, but it is rocky and continues to be poorly maintained. Hughes said the Arawaks’ practices have also caused extensive damage to the Antilles field, which leaves the question up in the air of where school teams that don’t have their own practice space can go.

Hughes suggested that the University of the Virgin Islands has extensive space, while others in the local sports scene have talked about possibly opening up Lionel Roberts Stadium.

Neely said Wednesday that team is using the Frydenhoj site primarily for conditioning and that he hopes that a new space can be found soon.

"It’s a period of uncertainty for us, but out of uncertainty, many times, comes opportunity," he added.

Daniel, meanwhile, had a meeting with Hughes and Arawak officials this week to talk over the situation and said Wednesday that while the league would try to help as much as possible, there are certain issues that the Arawaks organization – a nonprofit entity – has to work out on its own.

Antilles is the only private school with a big enough field to accommodate the program, but is unable to get the insurance needed to cover every player, Daniel said.

"I understand that," he said. "I know the team has been practicing out at Frydenhoj, they are looking at Smith Bay as well, but this is also something for the Arawaks organization to figure out. We will try to help them as much as we can."

But Daniel also has other issues on his plate. Looking at the upcoming tackle football season, Daniel said the coaches are trying to come up with a 10-game schedule, which allows each team to play one another twice. For years, there has been a problem with getting the schedule put together on time and, this year, Daniel said that getting 10 games in means also finding the funding for team travel.

"We just have to work and try and get this done," he said. "But it will require a lot of funding in order to make it happen."

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The recent stunning news about the possible discontinuation of the Private School Arawak Warriors football program has brought to light other systemic problems relating to tackle football in the territory – particularly the condition of the schools' fields and the lack of funding for sports activities.

A few weeks ago, various media outlets announced that Antilles School was pulling the plug on the Arawaks program, which has operated on the Antilles campus for several years. Several different perspectives about the situation have been aired by Antilles Headmaster Michael Hughes, along with Arawaks coach Luke Neely and IAA League President Mark Daniel.

Daniel said Wednesday that he understands the school's concerns but the question of where the football program will be housed in the future still has not been fully resolved.

In an interview with the Source, Hughes made it clear that Antilles is not pulling out of football completely. The school is just looking to find another site for the program, which has raised liability and safety concerns for the Antilles athletic staff, he added.

"This notion that the program is dropped is not the case," Hughes said. "We do not want the program to go out of existence – the students will still be able to participate. We just don't want to be the host school anymore, and the program will not be a school activity. It is just going to be something that the students can participate in after school."

At the heart of the argument for Hughes is whether Antilles can continue covering the liability for players injured on their field. The Arawaks team is made up of athletes from five different private schools and is headed by volunteer coaches that Hughes said are not professionally certified.

"We certainly applaud the efforts of these individuals and their dedication to the players," Hughes said. "But in this day and age, with all the liability concerns that have come out about contact sports injuries such as concussions, to have noncertified coaches and students with a variety of medical issues practicing daily on our campus, there are some pretty serious concerns raised."

Hughes said the Antilles staff has been evaluating the situation for the last two years and made the decision after extensive discussion.

For Neely, however, the news came out of the blue, leaving the Arawaks searching for a new home.

Speaking with the Source on Wednesday, Neely said that the team has been trying out several different practice fields, trying to find a site that is easily accessible for students coming from Antilles, V.I. Montessori School and International Academy, Sts. Peter and Paul, All Saints Cathedral School and the Gifft Hill School on St. John.

Both Hughes and Neely said they have turned to other school heads to take up the charge and host the program, and while Montessori has stepped up to the plate, the field is too small for the team.

"It puts us at a big time disadvantage because we have nowhere to practice – we were supposed to start practice the same week that this decision was made, so we've been scrambling trying to find a new place," Neely said. "We've been trying to practice in Smith Bay and out in Frydenhoj, but the fields are not in good shape, so it's a difficult situation. It puts the whole program in jeopardy."

For years, Frydenhoj was the practice site for the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School football team, but it is rocky and continues to be poorly maintained. Hughes said the Arawaks' practices have also caused extensive damage to the Antilles field, which leaves the question up in the air of where school teams that don't have their own practice space can go.

Hughes suggested that the University of the Virgin Islands has extensive space, while others in the local sports scene have talked about possibly opening up Lionel Roberts Stadium.

Neely said Wednesday that team is using the Frydenhoj site primarily for conditioning and that he hopes that a new space can be found soon.

"It's a period of uncertainty for us, but out of uncertainty, many times, comes opportunity," he added.

Daniel, meanwhile, had a meeting with Hughes and Arawak officials this week to talk over the situation and said Wednesday that while the league would try to help as much as possible, there are certain issues that the Arawaks organization – a nonprofit entity – has to work out on its own.

Antilles is the only private school with a big enough field to accommodate the program, but is unable to get the insurance needed to cover every player, Daniel said.

"I understand that," he said. "I know the team has been practicing out at Frydenhoj, they are looking at Smith Bay as well, but this is also something for the Arawaks organization to figure out. We will try to help them as much as we can."

But Daniel also has other issues on his plate. Looking at the upcoming tackle football season, Daniel said the coaches are trying to come up with a 10-game schedule, which allows each team to play one another twice. For years, there has been a problem with getting the schedule put together on time and, this year, Daniel said that getting 10 games in means also finding the funding for team travel.

"We just have to work and try and get this done," he said. "But it will require a lot of funding in order to make it happen."