by Grace Grabowski & Clare Tourtelotte, Sports Reporters
photo illustration by Julie Wang
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Dual County League (DCL) have made safety modifications — including mandating mask wearing, limiting spectator attendance, requiring practice athletic pods and suspending locker rooms and team benches — for all winter sports. The MIAA deemed coaches responsible for enforcing modifications for their teams.
Senior Ed Tarmey, the boys hockey captain, said that despite restrictions to enforce social distancing and safety, the rules of hockey will be essentially the same.
“We can still hit; we still play exactly the same. It’s just a little bit harder to play wearing masks,” he said.
The MIAA imposed limitations on the total players allowed in the rink at a time. Now, there will be 20 players on each team, while it was previously 22. Spectators will be limited, although the MIAA has yet to announce rules for spectators.
Tarmey said that the roster will look different this year because the number of players on the bench will have to be reduced to adhere to MIAA’s guidelines.
The MIAA announced that only one player will be allowed in the penalty box, the area used for players to serve punishments for certain fouls, as opposed to the usual three. If another player is penalized, they will wait outside the box while maintaining social distance and enter the box when the first player exits.
Tarmey said that despite the modifications, the team is ready for a strong season.
“It’s going to be a lot different, but I’m open to it because I want to do whatever we can to have a season,” he said.
The MIAA classified basketball as a high-risk COVID-19 sport, meaning that the teams will have to adhere to a number of modifications to play while ensuring safety.
Per the MIAA, jump balls are prohibited, players must put on hand sanitizer before entering the game, there will be no post-game handshake line and a new or sanitized game ball will be used each quarter.
Spectators will be required to wear masks and stay six-feet apart. Senior basketball player Lily Altman said she wants to try new ways to get fans, who can’t watch in person, involved.
“If somehow we can make basketball still a schoolwide event, if that means taping games and posting them or live streaming them, I think that will help the school get involved and maintain that South spirit while staying safe,” she said.
At practice, players will not be allowed to share any equipment and all equipment must be cleaned daily. Players will also be split up into small groups that will be required to stay 14 feet apart from each other.
Despite all of the modifications, boys basketball captain senior Max Aicardi said that the basketball season will remain as competitive as ever.
“I think [the modifications] are a good balance between keeping us safe and also keeping the game so it’s still basketball,” he said.
Altman said that the teams anticipate creating a strong community, despite the protocol changes.
“Our returning players are all very close and open to accepting the new players that could come on the team,” she said. “Our bond isn’t going to change due to COVID-19.”
Nordic ski meets this year will be similar to fall season’s cross-country running meets, in that skiers will start in waves to stay safe.
MIAA guidelines state that waves will consist of skiers from the same school, and they will be spaced out on the starting line, with the number of skiers determined by the size of the starting line, depending on the racing location.
“There’ll be three or four skiers at a time, and each of them will go out in waves spread out between minutes,” captain sophomore Ben Modiano said. “It’ll be very spread out instead of a clump like they did in previous years.”
This year’s Nordic team consists of approximately 27 skiers, and is considerably larger than last year which only had 17 skiers. The change in numbers this season is in part because the indoor track season has been pushed to Fall II, so many runners have joined the team.
“We know there are going to be a few changes, and we are going to have a larger team than normal, but we feel confident that we’ll be able to handle it, and we’re ready,” Modiano said.
In addition to wearing masks and social distancing, MIAA guidelines state that members of the alpine ski team will be required to practice in pods of five to 10 players, arrive at competitions dressed to compete and warm up in designated areas for their team.
Instead of the lodge, skiers will use their method of transportation as their warming area. The host school will be responsible for enforcing safety protocols.
Captain senior Saylor Flannery said that South’s alpine ski season, however, is still up in the air, as they are awaiting more information from the DCL.
“Frankly as of right now I don’t know what’s happening with the school team, they haven’t told us if that’s happening or not yet,” she said. “I think our chances are looking pretty good, but still it hasn’t been confirmed.”
She said that she is confident the team can have a safe and fruitful season.
“Skiing is a very low-risk sport. We wear masks regardless of if there is a pandemic or not … It’s all outside” she said.
Flannery said when she graduates, she hopes to leave a team prepared for future success.
“The most important thing is setting up the team for next year. There’s only so much we can do this year with bonding and staying together,” she said. “But [we can] make sure people know each other and make sure people understand what it means to be part of the ski team.”
Swim & Dive:
This year, the swim and dive team is adopting a virtual meet approach presented by the MIAA to best prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We [will] swim all of our events, we record all the times, then the other team swims at their pool, they record all the times from their events and then we compare and score once everything’s done,” captain senior Collin Holson said.
For swim practices, the team will be split up into three different cohorts. One cohort will swim at a time, while the other two groups do dry-land practice, swim coach Phil Martin said.
“We’re going to have designated times for them to practice, and we’re not really going to be overlapping those cohorts, so if you’re in cohort A, you’re going to be swimming and practicing with only people from cohort A and all the way down to cohort C,” he said.
There will be a significant decrease in the number of swimmers in the pool at a given time this year as a result of the cohort system. Holson said that his club team has implemented a system similar to this.
“It’s about four people per lane spread out, which translates to about 25 people in the pool at one time, which is very different from the usual about 60 people we have in the pool at any given time,” Holson said.
For masks, the MIAA decided that swimmers can un-mask and put their mask into a zip-lock bag as they step onto the starting block. When they exit the pool, they must put their masks back on.
Holson said he thinks swimming will not pose a great risk of COVID-19, thanks to pools’ good ventilation.
“Every pool is necessarily equipped with a pretty good ventilation system because if it didn’t, chlorine would be too much to handle,” he said.
Martin said he’s hopeful for a safe season.
“If done safely, it can work,” he said. “We’ve been told what needs to be done to do it safely.”
The MIAA deemed gymnastics a low-risk sport, so gymnasts are allowed to take their masks off while they compete. Low-risk sports are exempt from wearing masks during active play as long as participants stay 14 feet apart. If gymnasts choose to leave their mask on, however, no points will be deducted for improper uniform.
Captain senior Shanna Lacey said she is grateful to be able to compete this year.
“It’s low-risk, [and] we will actually get to have gymnastics and for the seniors to have our last year together,” she said.
The meets this year will look different in accordance to the MIAA guidelines, with athletes required to supply their own grips and chalk, and there will be no JV routines.
Despite the changes in the season, captains will still focus on creating a strong, cohesive environment on the gymnastics team, Lacey said.
“We’re going to do a lot of spirit,” she said. “We’ll probably try to connect more like maybe over Zoom or team-bonding activities.”