There could be a winter season for some, not all, Connecticut high school athletes.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference emailed a proposal to athletic directors on Monday based on the latest recommendations from the Connecticut Department of Health.
The proposal would allow for basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey and boys’ swimming to be played as well as holding state tournaments. It also recommended postponing competitive cheer and dance, indoor track and wrestling.
The CIAC’s Board of Control will vote on the proposal Thursday.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said at Monday’s press conference that youth sports, which includes high school athletics, could begin practicing on Jan. 19 and start competitions on Feb. 1.
The CIAC’s proposal did not specify a date to begin the regular season.
“Assuming community metrics continue an appropriate downward trend and athletic activities are not impacting in-person learning, interscholastic in-state competitions should begin no earlier than February 1,” the CIAC’s proposal stated.
The proposal, if accepted, will mandate the wearing of masks for all student-athletes, coaches and officials during practices and games. Gymnasts would be allowed to take off their masks to perform their individual events.
The approved sports would be allowed to play a maximum of 12 games with a minimum of six to qualify for the state tournament. The CIAC also plans to hold state tournaments between March 8-21.
Sports such as indoor track and wrestling could still get together in small groups for conditioning and “non-contact skill building.”
“I’m not surprised,” East Lyme girls’ indoor track coach Carl Reichard said about the proposed cancellation of the indoor track season, “but I’m obviously very disappointed. We lost the outdoor track season last year, and I’m very disappointed that it looks like we’re going to lose the indoor season. I do hold out a little bit of hope that they will come up with some sort of compromise.”
Montville wrestling coach Gary Wilcox felt the same way.
“I have very mixed emotions,” Wilcox said. “I understand being safe. I understand having protocols. I wouldn’t want any kids to die, but I think also think at a certain point the quality of life has been so poor in America.
“I’m very disappointed. I’m hurt for those kids. Speaking for the Montville kids, we had seven returning seniors and they are all very, very good. This was going to be their year for sure. One hundred percent, absolutely for sure, I would probably have the most senior-laden team with wrestlers who placed, and I really just feel bad for those guys because it’s a memory in their life that they’re not going to have.”
Basketball must schedule all games within leagues. Leagues should create divisions by geography, similar to what transpired during the fall season.
Gymnastics and swimming must schedule within leagues when possible. Meets between non-league teams must be held virtually.
Hockey should schedule within leagues as much as possible, although not all leagues have enough teams. The proposal encourages using the distance between schools when scheduling interleague games.
The proposal doesn’t have set guidelines for spectator attendance. It stated, “Schools may have varied rules for spectator attendance. It is important to find out what the rules of the schools are.”
The Eastern Connecticut Conference allowed fans to attend outdoor events this past fall until a surge in COVID-19 cases resulted in a ban of all specators. ECC commissioner Gary Makowicki said that policy is among the topics that will be discussed during the league’s executive meeting on Wednesday and Thursday’s advisory board meeting.
Another topic of discussion for the ECC will be cooperative teams. The league previously disallowed co-ops from competing due to COVID-19 protocols. That meant that the Eastern Connecticut Eagles, the only hockey team in the region, was banned from playing because it has players from 11 different schools.
Fitch is the host school for a boys’ swimming co-op that includes Ledyard, Norwich Tech and Stonington.
“We’re going to take whatever measures we can to give kids an opportunity to participate,” Makowicki said about the league’s winter sports. “We’ll probably revisit (co-ops) again based on what the numbers are and the guidance from the CIAC.”