Rio Hondo’s chances for most fall sports end

The Rio Hondo Independent School District board voted Monday to file for a Texas Education Agency waiver allowing four additional weeks of remote learning, a decision that is bringing an end to most fall athletics before they began.

The Bobcats were set to return to school Sept. 28, but the waiver is pushing the on-campus instruction start date to Oct. 26. Rio Hondo has had a rule in place stating that students must attend school face-to-face in order to participate in extracurricular activities.

Rio Hondo athletic director and football coach Rocky James said the circumstances make it impossible to have a football season before the Nov. 7 district certification deadline. He said the Bobcats hope to have some kind of season for the other fall sports, but with district certification deadlines being Oct. 27 for volleyball and Oct. 24 for team tennis, that is unlikely. Cross country could compete before the Oct. 31 deadline.

“Nothing was canceled by the board or anybody, it just essentially ended our chances of actually playing because we asked for that extension for the benefit of the community, and the teachers, and the kids. It just happened that we ran out of weeks for a football season,” James said.

There was emotion in his voice when James talked about having to address the situation with his team. He said he got the news after Wednesday’s athletic period, so the players are “finding out the hard way” instead of directly from their coach.

James said most of his seniors have been with the program for four years, and up to six for those who played in Rio Hondo’s junior high program. He said it’s hardest to think about them not getting one final season in black and gold.

“I feel bad for these seniors who have put in all their time and effort for our program to not get the opportunity to take the field as a senior,” James said. “I have some really, really good kids that have been in our program … for a long time, and to not get to play that last year is really tough. And these kids haven’t even been in school since March, since Spring Break. That’s tough for them, not being able to see their friends and classmates, and who knows when the real date really is when we’ll get to see each other?”

As he reflected on his seniors’ final moments on the field against Geronimo Navarro in last year’s playoff game, James said he’s not sure what he’ll say during what will be an emotional virtual team meeting today. But he wants his younger players to learn a valuable lesson from the situation.

“I have no idea. I wish I knew. It’ll probably be one of those things that has to flow through you when you talk. It’s a tough deal, and it’ll be a tough message to give them,” James said. “These underclassmen have to understand that when you have your opportunities, you have to seize those opportunities because you never know when your last one’s going to be, especially now.”