by Joyce Lee and Clare Tourtelotte, Sports Reporters
photo by Hedi Skali
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) released recommendations for the structure of the upcoming fall sports season on August 19. Over the following weeks, the Dual County League (DCL), of which South teams are a part, released additional updates.
On Sept. 10, the high schools presented their athletic reopening plan to the School Committee for approval. Newton North is in the Bay State league so there is a subtle difference in North’s plan, in which Swim & Dive is in the fall, but everything else is the same. The School Committee approved the fall sports plan on Sept. 14.
The planned seasons, their dates and the sports playing in them as announced by the DCL for Acton-Boxboro, Bedford, Boston Latin, Cambridge, Concord-Carlisle, Lincoln-Sudbury, Newton South, Waltham, Wayland, Weston and Westford:
|Fall Sports||Sept. 18-Nov. 20||Soccer, Cross Country, Field Hockey and Golf|
|Winter Sports||Nov. 30-Feb. 21||Basketball, Hockey, Gymnastics, Indoor Track & Field, Alpine Ski, Nordic Ski, Winter Cheer, Dance and Winter Swim & Dive|
|Fall Sports II (“Floating Season”)||Feb. 22-April 25||Football, Cheerleading, Volleyball, Unified Basketball, and Dance|
|Spring Sports||April 26-July 3||Baseball, Softball, Lacrosse, Tennis, Outdoor Track & Field, and Unified Track & Field|
Newton’s athletic reopening plan was structured around the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) guidelines, which placed sports into three different categories based on the risk factor of transmitting COVID-19: low-, medium- and high-risk.
Low-risk fall sports will be played in their typical season with minor modifications. Cross-country, for instance, will compete with staggered start times. Certain moderate-risk sports, including soccer and field hockey, can only be played this fall with more substantial rule changes designed to limit physical contact, shorten practices, reduce shared equipment and require masks.
The MIAA has created an additional “floating season” from Feb. 22 to April 25 to accommodate sports deemed unsafe to play this fall. Individual schools and conferences may move sports from the fall to the floating season on their own accord. The DCL opted to move volleyball to the floating season.
Teams that are unable to compete until the floating season have continued to hold captain’s practices, as they would in a typical year, where students train informally. Restrictions limit outdoor training to 25 people, and that has impacted football’s captain’s practices, football player senior Will La Camera said.
“We’ve still been having some captain’s practices and working out, but we can’t play in a seven-on-seven league like we usually do,” he said. “We didn’t have the opportunity to play against other schools during the summer this year.”
La Camera said that although football is a contact sport, additional equipment like a visor and a helmet mask — both of which football coaches are considering implementing — can limit the spread of COVID-19.
“Even though football may seem like a super high-risk sport,” he said, “there are certainly ways we can keep it safe and procedures to follow that make it safe for everyone to play.”
Volleyball captain senior Maddie Xerras said that flexibility is important during the pandemic.
“Going forward, it’s going to be really different,” she said. “A lot of the girls just need to realize that sacrifices are important if you want to have a season and do it safely.”
Varsity golf coach Kevin Flynn said he is aiming to emulate the feeling of previous seasons.
“I’m planning to have a season,” he said, “so I’m trying to keep everything as normal and consistent as it has been in years past.”
The MIAA has not released specific recommendations for spring sports, but Sophie Blumberg of unified track said she is hopeful that they will be able to hold a regular season.
“I feel like people would feel safer being outside,” Blumberg said, “and it would be easier to social distance because there is more room.”
Girls cross-country captain Sayler Flannery said that despite all the changes to the sports seasons, athletes have to stay connected this year in order to have strong teams in the future.
“To better help the team in the future,” she said, “it’s going to be important for us to keep unity, and keep that team spirit this year.”