When it comes to the fall sports landscape, there’s little normal about the new normal.
According to high school Athletic Director Joe Cusack, the fall athletic season officially begins on Friday, Sept. 18, with offerings limited to field hockey, golf, boys and girls soccer and boys and girls cross country.
Football, volleyball and cheerleading have not been formally canceled, Cusack explained, and may be revived in what he termed a fourth “floating season,” beginning in late February and ending in late April.
In that event, the traditional spring season would be pushed back and probably not conclude until late June.
Other modifications also have been enacted — from mandatory face mask use by student-athletes to limiting the number of players engaged in competition at any one time — in order to enhance social distancing and limit transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
“There are going to be sports and there are going to be activities,” Cusack told school board members last week. “And in some cases it’s going to be a version of the sport that kids have played before.”
Transportation issues for away games have yet to be worked out, but may ultimately involve the use of private vehicles driven either by students or parents. In addition, locker rooms and other close-quarters areas will be off limits, with student-athletes encouraged to arrive at school dressed for afternoon practices or games.
“There are going to be challenges for everybody,” Cusack said.
One of the stiffest challenges may involve limiting attendance at outdoor sports events to 50 people or less. To help ensure compliance, Cusack said parents, family members and other interested parties will be discouraged from traveling to away games or matches.
“There’s not much I can do about it but follow that rule,” he said, adding that Hockomock League athletic directors hope to avoid an “arms race” with spectators arriving hours early to secure a spot at high school games.
Responding to questions about the decision to postpone volleyball, Cusack said health officials have determined that indoor activities are considered more likely to increase the odds of COVID transmission. In addition, he said, other school districts have converted gymnasiums to overflow classrooms or cafeterias.
“We just didn’t feel it was safe for us, and we are one of the smaller schools in the league,” he said.
School Business Administrator William Yukna agreed, saying that new cleaning requirements and expanded duties will take additional time for school custodial staff
“The thing people need to understand is that if we don’t lock down buildings as soon as the kids are gone we will never get them clean” for the next day, Yukna said.