With high schools reopening following the holiday break, the clock is now ticking on what the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has long considered to be a crucial two-week period to see how a return to school impacts the covid-19 outlook across the state.
The CIAC has slated Jan. 19 as the time for winter sports to begin practices, with the season hopefully beginning soon after, near the end of the month. The coming weeks, which include a CIAC Board of Control meeting on Jan. 14, will be pivotal in learning what the high school sports season will look like in 2021.
As the CIAC takes a wait-and-see approach before making any other decisions on the winter season, let’s look at how surrounding states are handling the upcoming season, and if Connecticut will ultimately take on similar procedures and plans for its season.
In Massachusetts, state tournament competition has already been called off for all winter sports, though some leagues and conferences could implement their own postseason experiences, much like the Central Connecticut Conference did for local teams during the fall season, when it created regionalized tournaments.
Practices and tryouts for winter sports in Massachusetts began in late December, except for high-risk sports like indoor track, which the state moved to its Fall II season that is scheduled to begin in late February, similar to the CIAC’s second semester fall season that is planned for football. Wrestling, also considered a high-risk sport, was moved to the spring season, which would begin in late April.
For the moderate-risk sports like basketball and ice hockey, the MIAA will implement a number of mitigating strategies in an effort to halt the spread of covid, including eliminating the opening tip for basketball games, while also extending break times in between quarters to allow for extra sanitizing. There will also be no halftime break, and light tagging will take the place of normal wrap-ups that are seen late in games when a team elects to intentionally foul.
Most swim meets will be virtual in Massachusetts, and on the ice, scrums along the boards will be limited to just two players, one offensive and one defensive player. Officials can stop play if a crowd gathers.
In New York, the state’s Public High School Athletic Association has put the start of its winter season on an indefinite hold, while already canceling all state tournaments for the season, which the CIAC is still hoping to hold. New York’s high-risk sports were supposed to begin on Jan. 4, but state officials have indicated that until the state sees a decline in covid cases, high-risk sports won’t be played. Some sections of the state are allowing low-risk sports like bowling and swimming to practice, but the rest of the sports, like in Connecticut, are seeing their window to play grow smaller as each day passes.
In New Jersey, the outlook for winter sports is a more optimistic one after Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Saturday that indoor sports were permitted to resume, after the season was pushed back to 2021 back in November. Practices for basketball begin on Jan. 11, and hockey games start as soon as Jan. 15, though the state’s ban on interstate competition for hockey is still in effect.
In Rhode Island, the winter sports season is set to begin on Monday, with similar restrictions as other states, including virtual swim meets along with basketball and hockey roster sizes being shrunk to avoid crowding on the bench.
The CIAC is expected to meet with the Department of Public Health this week to discuss next steps for the winter season, which is already expected to be nearly cut in half in terms of games played due to the late start.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com