WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington High School Athletic Director Mia Muzio was recently in front of the Wilmington School Committee to seek their approval of a proposal that would see Wilmington High School and Stoneham High School form a co-op girls varsity hockey team.
“With the future projected participation numbers, the WHS Girls Varsity Hockey program would not be able to continue competing without the establishment of a co-op team,” Muzio told Committee members. “This proposal is based on decreasing participation numbers and lack of incoming girls hockey student athletes in Wilmington.”
The WHS Girls Varsity Hockey team had 12 skaters and 2 goalies this past season. For the 2021-2022 season, the team is projected to only have 7 skaters and 1 goalie, with no incoming 9th graders.
“The Girls Hockey program consistently has to ask the league for an 8th Grade participation waiver,” explained Muzio. “Unfortunately, this upcoming year with limited numbers, it would be not responsible to rely on the possibility of two or three 8th graders participating. Furthermore, I also do not believe that it is safe to extend beyond 8th graders to ask for a 7th and 8th grade waiver.”
Muzio explained that Stoneham High’s Girls Varsity Hockey team is projected to have 10 skaters and no goalies for the 2021-2022 season. Combined, the co-op team would have a healthy roster of 17 skaters and 1 goalie.
The newly formed co-op team would have two head coaches – the current Wilmington head coach and the current Stoneham head coach. Additionally, the team would have an assistant coach from Wilmington and an assistant coach from Stoneham.
The team would practice and play their home games at Stoneham Arena, a rink the Wilmington team is already familiar with. The cost of the ice would be split between the two schools. Due to cost of new uniforms, it is likely Wilmington players would wear Wilmington jerseys and Stoneham players would wear Stoneham jerseys.
The co-op would last for two seasons, with a possibility to extend the partnership for additional years.
“This length of time is based on the need to provide our student athletes with an opportunity to play based on the potential numbers for the program,” said Muzio. “The goal behind entering into a co-op is to build the program to a place where it can stand on its own. Talking to Wilmington Youth Hockey, we’re looking a bit of a stagnant period for female student athletes coming up to the high school.”
Stoneham High School would be considered the “host team.” While Stoneham High School charges users fee for their athletics, it has agreed not to charge Wilmington members of the girls hockey team.
Muzio noted that the Wilmington players would prefer to have their own team, but – ultimately – they just want to play.
“[Forming a co-op with Stoneham] is not their favorite thing in the world,” Muzio told the School Committee. “But they will adapt and work with the Stoneham girls. They’ll have an opportunity to skate over the summer and get to know one another.”
“We could very well lose girls hockey in Wilmington if we don’t put ourselves in a position to generate interest,” stressed Muzio. “This is the first step in putting the girls in a position to play, which will ensure some longevity in our girls hockey program.”
Muzio noted that the Middlesex League Athletic Directors already voted to approve the Wilmington-Stoneham Girls Varsity Hockey co-op.
After hearing Muzio’s presentation, the Wilmington School Committee followed suit, unanimously approving her request.
“I appreciate your initiative to preserve the opportunity for these girls, and not have this program dissolved,” remarked School Committee member Melissa Plowman.
“I am very grateful you took the initiative to recognize the problem and find a solution so our kids can play,” echoed member MJ Byrnes.
School Committee member Jo Newhouse noted she’s aware of 7th and 8th grade girls who opted to go to private schools to play hockey.
“We’re losing a good number of them,” said Newhouse.
Muzio added that – across the board for all sports – Wilmington High is also losing student athletes to club sports. It’s a problem that is affecting public high schools across the state.
“[Club sports] are really crushing high school sports,” noted Muzio.
Without specifying which programs, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand cautioned the School Committee that other sports at Wilmington High School may soon be suffering from similar sustainability issues that girls hockey is currently facing.
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