First let’s state that playing high school fall sports in Massachusetts this year is not a given.
It is not like professional sports where you can isolate pro athletes and test them for the coronavirus daily. Or play a season in “a bubble city.”
There are a lot more moving parts with high school athletics.
So as we pass the 4th of July Weekend we are still holding out hope that we will see fall sports and hopefully the last of those ubiquitous DTC all-decade teams that have been thrust into print to fill these pages during the absence of sports.
The MIAA has a COVID-19 Task Force Sub-Committee, that is charged to determine appropriate measures for a safe return to MIAA athletics in alignment with guidelines set forth by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
Some interesting “outside the box ideas” have been thrown around as possible alternatives if fall sports cannot be back 100-percent as they were in the past — pre-pandemic.
• Moving select Spring sports to this Fall (2020) and select Fall sports to the Spring (2021).
Major concerns around putting select Spring athletes in a position to possibly lose two straight seasons.
Additional concerns around making students choose what sport to play if their Spring sport was moved to the Fall but their Fall sport remained in place.
For example, a boys lacrosse player and a football player. If both sports were placed in the Spring, that puts the athlete in a difficult position and they essentially lose a season of one sport.
The same comparison with a field hockey and softball player if both are placed in the Fall.
Discussion took place that while on the surface it may seem logical to flip some sport seasons around, the risk may be too great.
It perhaps has to be the entire season being flip-flopped with all sports and not a select few.
Moving Fall start date to August 1, 2020 and ending the season by October 31.
Rationale would be to get ahead of a potential late fall spike.
Concerns about cutting the summer of students, parents, coaches, ADs and the pressure it would put on student-athletes.
Additional concerns about equity. Some communications may be ready to go, while others are not. What kind of position would this put schools and communities in?
The MIAA Sports Medicine Committee has discussed an earlier start to preseason activities but is awaiting state guidelines for both the reopening of school and Phase 3.
Discussion about relaxing the out of season coaching restrictions.
The Task Force will be reporting to the MIAA Board of Directors at their meeting on Tuesday, July 21.
The COVID-19 Task Force has created three sub-groups to look at each of the three possibilities for return to school.
New Normal: The goal was to explore all MIAA Rules that may be impacted. Dive into protocol, questions and concerns related to athletics under a “New Normal”. Communicate and share resources to members.
Hybrid: Discussion around health and safety standards including PPE requirements, outside vs indoor activities, access and equity issues, density of practice, transportation concerns and the Fall timeline.
Remote: The goal was to build a model to assist coaches and students in any scenario of return to school, whether the students were on the field or not. The focus was to incorporate the five pillars of the MIAA (Leadership, Sportsmanship, Coaches Education, Community Service, & Wellness).
Let’s hope things will be looking up in the fall, but it all remains to be seen at this point.