Ready, set, hike! Flag football comes to Ricci

Ready, set, hike! Flag football comes to Ricci

Isaiah Smith-Johnson, grade 8, jumps for the ball during Thursday’s flag football game, pursued by Bradyn Shadoian and Michael Ficocelli. (Breeze photos by Nicole Dotzenrod)
Flag football comes to Ricci

NORTH PROVIDENCE – A group of students from Ricci Middle School are learning lessons in sportsmanship and teamwork as members of the school’s new flag football league, which met after school for the third time last Thursday.

Eighth-graders Isaiah Smith-Johnson and Ryan Pallotta asked principal TJ Mellen for permission to start the league at Ricci. In three weeks, the program – open to all and with no tryouts – has attracted more than 50 students.

Mellen, who coaches youth football in Lincoln, said the program at Ricci is entirely student-led. They’re given a set of basic rules (such as no tackling and no swearing), but “they have a lot of decisions to make on their own,” Mellen said.

The students coach themselves, with eighth-grade students serving as mentors to sixth and seventh-graders. The students were divided into four teams overseen by Mellen and referees Connor Fagan, a social studies teacher, and Joe Cordoves, who teaches math.

Without assigned coaches, Mellen said students are required to problem-solve and work together to organize playing time and positions. A player cannot sit on the sidelines for more than two consecutive plays, so everyone gets an equal chance to participate.

Mellen said the program has been a great motivational tool, as it requires students have good academics and behavior to participate.

“It’s been especially great for the kids who might need a little extra motivation to get to school every day,” he said. “This is keeping kids out of detention, and kids’ behavior has turned around because of it.”

Mellen said the flag football team keeps kids out of trouble by giving them something to do after school on a Friday night. In addition, “students who might not make the school’s competitive sports teams can still be a part of something,” he said.

The middle school recently completed a five-week lacrosse program in partnership with Johnson & Wales University, which was also open to all students with no tryouts. Mellen said the lacrosse and flag football programs, “offer students the chance to compete with peers in a safe and structured environment.”

Both programs, Mellen said, align with Ricci Middle School’s mission, “to provide students with opportunities after school that give them something to do while promoting a healthy lifestyle.”

“We have also seen an increase in student attendance because of these programs,” he added. “These after-school ‘sports clubs’ motivate students to come to school, work hard academically and show high standards of conduct.”

Bradyn Shadoian, center, steps into the endzone as James Dufault, right, and Ethen Harrison attempt to grab his flag.
Migel Cardarelli makes moves to pass through a line of defenders during Thursday’s flag football game at Ricci Middle School.
Ricci Middle School’s Bradyn Shadoian, right, prepares for a catch as he’s covered by Jalen Antoine, James Dufault and Jamel Boyd.
Vincenzo Casieri jumps to block a pass as Christopher Robinson catches the football.