The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference released an outline of guidance for the return of both sports and activities on Friday morning. It was done in conjunction with the Connecticut State Medical Society Sports Medicine Committee.
The guidelines are still dependent upon the progress of the state’s re-opening plan during this COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, each school district will still make the determination when it is safe to return to having sports on site.
The CIAC Board of Control conducted a special meeting on Thursday to approve the guidelines.
“Each individual district will assess what is best for them,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said. “The primary importance of this is to give schools the understanding of what they can expect returning to interscholastic athletics and activities’ programs and to provide information to superintendents, principals and athletic directors to help them prepare for the (fall) season that may begin while COVID limitations are still in place.”
The state’s second re-opening phase was scheduled to begin on June 20, but Gov. Ned Lamont moved that up to June 17 on Friday morning. The phase would also include gatherings of up to 50 outdoors and for summer baseball to return.
If that happens, the CIAC can enter its second phase on July 6, coinciding with the opening of summer schools. The CIAC would allow in-person conditioning and skill development of 5-10 kids for all sports up to three times per week.
“This does not permit full practices, nor does it permit fall or winter coaches to coach their players on outside teams,” Lungarini said. “That is being done to address skill regression that has likely occurred (due to no activities being done for nearly three months).”
All sports programs have been allowed to conduct virtual coaching and conditioning sessions since June 1.
The second phase would take place for a minimum of four weeks. The third phase, beginning no earlier than Aug. 3, would include gatherings of up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors. This is assuming the state has moved onto the third phase of its re-opening. This would continue through the end of August.
The third phase would allow indoor facilities, including weight rooms, to be used.
The hygiene requirements, like using hand sanitizer, not sharing any equipment and social distancing when necessary, would all remain in place throughout. All equipment should be constantly cleaned.
“It is possible in a best-case scenario, we are beyond all of these phases (for the state) before we start competition,” Lungarini said. “We’d rather err on the side of caution and increase the number (for gatherings) if appropriate. While our phases do take into consideration the state’s re-opening, the decision to move from stage to stage will be communicated by CIAC after collaborating with the state medical societies.”
Health screenings, testing and contact tracing will be left up to the individual school districts to conduct.
The CIAC has gone along with advice from several medical organizations, including the CDC, about wearing masks. Basically, everyone except the players on the field of play will be encouraged to wear masks, including head coaches and officials and players on the bench.
The fall practice start dates remain the same for now: Aug. 17 for football, Aug. 27 for everything else. The scheduled first date for high school sporting events in the fall is Sept 10. The fall sports include: football, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, field hockey, girls swimming and girls volleyball.
If the current health crisis forces changes, the CIAC will follow the guidelines provided by the National Federation of High Schools regarding where sports are categorized.
Cross country is in the lowest risk category, as is swimming — but only individual events. Track and field’s individual running events and golf are also in that category. Football, wrestling, boys lacrosse and basketball are in the high risk category. The rest of the sports are in the moderate risk category.
Basketball is the one sport that the CIAC categorized differently. The NFHS lists it as a moderate risk sport.
“It was suggested by CAAD (the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors), the State Coaches Association, the athletic trainer’s association and the doctors, as well as members of the Board of Control, to look at this,” Lungarini said. “Players have contact with each other throughout the game and sweating on each other. So we felt it should be moved to high risk.”
The next Board of Control meeting will be June 29. Lungarini still feels the CIAC will have to decide by early August which sports will be played for the fall season.
“We appreciate that our kids are anxious to get out and re-engage with the sports they love and are passionate about,” Lungarini said. “But it is our responsibility to help them re-engage in those sports in a safe manner.”