By Don Nicastro
REVERE – As another athletic season dawns upon Revere High School, the school’s athletic landscape presents a mosaic of challenges, achievements and transitions. From the fluctuating dynamics of freshman teams to value of coaches new and returning, the school’s athletic director, Frank Shea, provides an insightful glimpse into the state of Revere athletics. With a history of both successes, such as the undefeated run of the girls’ volleyball team last fall, and challenges like the decline of the varsity hockey team, Revere High School stands at a crossroads of tradition and change.
Shea caught up with the Revere Advocate as his teams soon begin their fall competition. Shea has a rich history with Revere High School and its athletic programs. His journey from being associated with the old Savio Prep in Boston to his current role as the athletics director at Revere High School showcases his commitment and experience in the field of school athletics. He is in Year No. 9 now.
The onset of the athletic season brings a flurry of activity and excitement. While the atmosphere remains consistent with previous years, the logistics and coordination efforts are immense, especially at the beginning. Football started Friday, Aug. 18, and all other sports began their preseason the following Monday.
“You know, I don’t think it’s any different than any of the previous years. I think kids are excited,” Shea said in the Advocate’s Aug. 21 interview. “Coaches are kind of running around with their heads cut off trying to get kids cleared with physicals. They’re looking at times for tryouts and how many kids they’re going to have and if they have to make cuts, and so it’s kind of hectic with them. Coordinating all the sports, especially for the fall, is the most difficult because people have been away for the summer and no one’s really in that mode yet. And it just all comes and hits you right at once.”
The school has a mix of new and veteran coaches. While new coaches bring fresh ideas and energy, the experienced ones provide stability and a deep understanding of the school’s athletic culture. Alex Butler will take over the field hockey program. Sabrina Sloan and Kylie Pezzuto will grab the reins of the cheerleading program. Emilie Hostetter takes over the volleyball program – coming off a tremendous season for which he was an assistant. Lou Cicatelli (football), Michael Flynn (boys’ cross-country), Katie Sinnott (girls’ cross-country), Manual Lopes (boys’ soccer), Megan O’Donnell (girls’ soccer) and Brendon Pezzuto (golf) all return.
Shea said he’s excited with the mix of coaches, new and old. While the returning coaches like Cicatelli (22 seasons) “make things much easier,” the new ones “come with a lot of new ideas and a new energy, which is good. They are quality candidates who went through the interview process … and have a level of experience, expertise and enthusiasm.”
The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a decline in sports participation. However, the school has managed to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels. There’s a noticeable trend of students becoming selective in their sports choices, with some sports gaining popularity and others seeing a decline.
“We did have a big drop coming the first year coming out of COVID,” Shea said. “But we’ve kind of got back to where we were numbers-wise, at least overall numbers, prior to COVID, which is a plus.”
Urban schools like Revere face unique challenges in boosting athletic participation, according to Shea. Many students have external responsibilities, making it difficult to achieve high participation rates. Shea said they’re in the upper-30s for percentage of Revere High School students who play a sport.
Despite this, the school has seen a positive trend in recent years. Certain sports like football, volleyball and soccer have witnessed high, consistent participation rates, while others, such as cross-country, baseball and golf, have seen a decline.
“Football has done very well, numbers-wise, and boys’ soccer and girls’ soccer always have really good numbers,” Shea said. “The boys have well over 100 kids try out every year.”
Over the years, some sports teams at Revere High School have faced challenges in maintaining their status. For instance, the varsity hockey team had to give up its host status due to a decline in participants. It now plays with a cooperative team of student-athletes from Malden, Everett and Mystic Valley.
The school has experienced fluctuations in the number of participants for freshman teams in various sports. While there’s great participation at the middle school level, it doesn’t always translate to high school.
As for the decision to move back to the Greater Boston League (GBL) a few years ago from the Northeastern Conference (NEC), that strategic move has proven beneficial, especially for the girls’ teams. The GBL offers a more competitive and rewarding environment for Revere’s athletes.
“Overall, I think it was a slam dunk for us,” Shea said. “We’ve had a lot of success, especially on the girls’ side, with winning GBL titles.”