This month, sports fans will have the opportunity to watch high-level athletic competition involving participants from far-flung locations—not at the Tokyo Olympics but at the Bay State Games, now in its 39th season in Massachusetts. And for the first time, Rivers will serve as a venue for two of the events, hosting volleyball July 10-11 and girls’ basketball July 16-18.
“We are very excited to be hosting some of the Bay State Games at Rivers this summer,” says Rivers Athletics Director Keith Zalaski. “We love our campus and facilities, and we feel fortunate to be able to use them to help local kids have the experience playing in an event that represents all of the athletes in Massachusetts. We look forward to providing a high-level setting for such a special event.”
The Bay State Games, which provides recreational and enrichment opportunities for athletes of all ages and abilities, may not be the Olympics, but, as part of the National Congress of State Games, which in turn is part of the United States Olympic Committees Affiliate Organizations Council, it’s Olympics-adjacent, and over the years it has sent more than three dozen participants on to compete at the Olympic or professional level.
Of course, COVID has had its impact on the Bay State Games. “We had to cancel all summer games events in 2020 and only received state approval to proceed with events in summer 2021 in May,” explained Bay State Games Executive Director Kevin Cummings. Moreover, says Cummings, some of the locations the organization typically counts on, such as Harvard and UMass Boston, have chosen not to let outside groups use their facilities this summer. That left the organization scrambling to find suitable venues that offer the right combination of location, accessibility, and quality.
As luck would have it, though, the Bay State Games announced a partnership with the New England Preparatory School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC) this past winter, and that put facilities like Rivers on the radar. “We received several recommendations to investigate the Rivers School,” says Cummings. “We made an inquiry, took a site visit, and are very grateful that our request was approved for this summer.”
The connection between the Bay State Games and NEPSAC does more than expand the list of potential venues, says Cummings. “The new partnership helps us to ensure that we are reaching the full range of high school athletic participation,” he says. “By participating in the Bay State Games, NEPSAC athletes will receive additional college recruiting exposure and the opportunity to participate with new teammates and coaches, as well as the benefits of several non-athletic programs, including the Future Leaders Scholarship Program and our High School Ambassador Initiative.”
Cummings says that Rivers is a great fit for the Games. “We are very excited to be at The Rivers School this year,” Cummings continues. “Their athletic facilities are top notch, the location is centrally located for many of our participants, and the campus provides a great, small-college-campus feel. We believe our participants will be very impressed with the venue for our basketball and volleyball events.” Let the games begin!