The CIAC gave everyone involved with spring sports a slight sense of relief Wednesday. Connecticut high school sports’ governing body decided to indefinitely suspend its spring season, but stopped short of canceling the upcoming season all together, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Students will not be returning to school until the beginning of April at the earliest and sports cannot occur in the absence of school. Teams are additionally not allowed to meet or practice due to the prioritization of social distancing, but for the coaches of many local teams, they are happy to know they do not yet have to call quits on a season that never even reached tryouts.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” New Britain baseball coach Roberto Mercado said. “I was hoping for the news that came out and not rush the judgment and shut everything down. Everything is going to change pretty much week by week depending what’s going on. If school is going to happen, obviously, it would be great to have spring sports, but the most important thing is everyone’s health and making sure everyone is safe to be able to participate in sports. It gives us a fighting chance to see what happens.”
The CIAC provided little beyond saying that spring sports are not canceled with CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini saying the organization “was open to all possibilities in providing our kids a spring sports experience,” but did not provide any potential start times for the paused season. Currently, spring state tournaments and State Open events are scheduled to conclude on June 13, but with the season starting late, Lungarini didn’t rule out extending the season through the month of June in order to salvage as much of the season as possible.
Like Mercado, Bristol Central baseball coach Bunty Ray said he was pleased with the CIAC’s choice and it’s what he expected to hear because of how often the news regarding the pandemic is changing.
“I knew that they weren’t going to put themselves out there and make a decision that really doesn’t need to be made right now,” Ray said. “It’s actually not the most important part of what’s going on. There’s a lot more important things going on than that. We have to take care of families, we have to take care of kids’ education, we have to take care of getting kids the supports that they need, then we can focus on the extracurricular stuff.”
The news of the season surviving another day came as a pleasant surprise to other coaches as they figured the CIAC would follow the lead of every collegiate conference at all three divisions and close the door on spring sports for 2020.
“I was definitely surprised,” New Britain softball coach Joel Simmone said. “I think it gives us all hope that we can maybe get on the field and play an abbreviated season and give these seniors their last shot. I talked to a lot of coaches, there’s a lot of softball teams that I play [that] have a ton of seniors that were looking forward to getting in this in. Myself, I only have two so it’s not as significant as far as seniors go. I sent a group text to my girls and they were very happy that it’s not canceled yet.”
While the CIAC kept the hope alive for athletes, coaches and parents around the state, everyone still feels in limbo because they have no further details. With tryouts nearing prior to the school closures, coaches and potential athletes are still unsure of how the season would be organized, if there is one.
“The hardest part is we don’t know when it would start,” Central girls lacrosse coach Kyle Phelan said. “We don’t know what the season would look like, we don’t know what the preseason could look like. The CIAC could say, ‘we’re going to start on this day and five days later you have a game.’ You have to be in shape, you have to be ready to go. You’re trying to get your kids to do some sort of conditioning, some sort of workout, but you don’t want to put them in a large group because of what’s going on.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org