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HS Coach Serves Suspension for Maskless Team Photo

Paul Steinbach

The boys' soccer coach at Rockport (Mass.) High School was disciplined last week after staging a team photo with his players unmasked.

As reported by the Gloucester Daily Times, several team photos — including the single, maskless shot — were taken after the Vikings clinched at least a share of the Cape Ann League Baker Division championship with a 1-0 win at rival Georgetown, which was also alive in the league race heading into the game. The photos made their way onto Facebook, which led one viewer to share the maskless photo with Rockport superintendent Robert Liebow.

Liebow hit coach Dave Curley with a one-game suspension in the team's final game against Lynnfield this past Monday night, a game Rockport needed to at least tie to earn a single point to clinch the CAL Baker championship on its own. Rockport was able to salvage a scoreless stalemate with the school's athletic director and girls' varsity soccer coach John Parisi coaching the team. The point gave the Vikings the outright CAL Baker championship.

Social distancing measures have been implemented this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and players are required to wear masks during games. According to multiple Public Health Officials, however, in order to be considered a close contact one must be within six feet from another for 15 straight minutes. The team photos fell well short of that mark according to Curley.

Curley has been coaching in Rockport for over four decades and the field behind Rockport High School, the Ryan Curley Athletic Field, is named after him and longtime field hockey coach and athletic director Mary Ryan.

"I haven't been able to see anyone's faces this entire season," he said. "I wanted a photo to remember the team and the season with the kids smiling faces. I told everyone to hold their breath first, and it was a quick snap shot, I'd say a little more than two seconds but certainly not more than five."

"I take responsibility for the photo," Curley added. "And I didn't want to inconvenience anyone. But I feel the punishment does not fit the crime because the masks were down for a shorter period of time than our mandatory water breaks at practices and during games. To me a suspension means you did something really bad, and in over 40 years coaching soccer I have never even received a yellow card."

He also said that his team has been in compliance with social distancing recommendations all season.

"We have followed all the rules put in front of us," Curley said. "The players wore masks at all times in practices and games outside of the water breaks."

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