The CIAC Board of Control is continuing to work on a modified plan for the fall sports season in alignment with the Connecticut Department of Health. Part of that plan was revealed late Sunday night, which includes the resumption of in-person conditioning beginning Monday.
A copy of DPH’s recommendations, in a Sunday letter to the CIAC from Acting Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford prior to the Board of Control’s meeting, “encourages CIAC to work with their coaches, athletic directors, and board members to consider modifications to both girls’ volleyball and football that would allow them to be played consistent with the standards that define either “lower risk” or outdoor “moderate risk” sports as categorized by the National Federation of State High School Associations.”
DPH stated moving girls volleyball outdoors, or playing a ‘7 v 7’ style of football without tackling and line play would allow them to be considered in the “moderate risk” outdoor sports category.
“DPH would strongly recommend that CIAC consult with their sports medicine committee, and give them ample time to study and fully vet any proposed changes prior to implementing rapid changes to how any high school sport is played in our state,” the letter stated.
DPH also stated it agreed with the CIAC’s most recent proposed schedule for all other fall sports.
The CIAC Board of Control also decided Sunday that if any fall sport winds up being canceled this season, it will not be made up in the spring or during any other season.
“Everything will be reassessed as we move forward, but with all the people we talk to and look at the scientific stats, considering the feasibility of playing early into next year or in February or March, during those time frames, the outlook is nowhere near as positive as right now,” said Glenn Lungarini, the CIAC’s executive director. “There is (no time frame) that suggests to us any time in the future will be better than where we are at right now.”
In-person conditioning for fall sports can resume on Monday. It had been on pause since Aug. 14. Individual school districts have final say on whether conditioning resumes at their schools Monday.
The Department of Health said in its letter it would support conditioning activities, limited to those directed at improving athletes’ aerobic conditioning, as well as sport-specific non-contact drills for high school athletes to continue at this time for the fall sports with which CIAC chooses to go forward.
DPH did offer the following recommendations for those activities:
• Athlete cohort size should be reduced back to the original limit of 10 (from 15, currently)
• Cohorting of athletes during conditioning and practices should continue throughout the entire season, when practicable.
• To the extent possible, all conditioning and practice activities throughout the entire season should take place outdoors in areas with sufficient space to allow for appropriate distancing. If indoor gym spaces or weight rooms must be used, they should be limited to use by a single cohort at one time and only used in compliance with the DECD sector rules for commercial gyms (i.e., use of masks, adequate spacing of machines, capacity limits, etc.). Schools that to not have the appropriate space or other resources to comply with commercial gym sector rules should limit conditioning and practice activities to outdoor-only.
• Sufficient staffing should be available to directly supervise the activities of each cohort of athletes separately and at all times
• Face coverings, social distancing, and all other mitigation strategies outlined in the CIAC Resocialization of Interscholastic Athletics & Activities Guidance should continue to be strictly enforced, trained, and reinforced
The official start of fall sports practice was pushed back to Saturday, Aug. 29 at Friday’s CIAC Board of Control meeting.
All sports are only allowed to conduct practices in cohorts of 10. Lungarini said the resumption of non-contact skill development on Saturday is also in alignment with the DPH.
“I think our superintendents have very clear direction,” Lungarini said earlier Sunday. “We will continue to work with DPH. What we are doing with the conditioning starting again Monday is in alignment with the DPH’s position. The direction they are getting from us is very direct and aligns with DPH.”
Cohorts of 10 will be allowed during conditioning and when practice begins. That was the number used throughout July during conditioning. The cohort number was 15 since Aug. 3.
What is still very much up in the air is how full practices will look — with contact — and when those will actually begin. Lungarini said some school districts have decided not to start until either Sept. 14 or 15.
“The DPH’s recommendations are that activities don’t begin until two weeks after school starts,” Lungarini said. “If we can’t go to full team practices until two weeks after school starts and more districts make decisions to delay the start of school, at some point, we have to discuss the feasibility of having fall competition based on that time frame.”
The regular season is scheduled to begin on Sept. 24.
The CIAC and DPH met for more than two hours on Thursday but the DPH stood by its original recommendation that all fall sports should be paused until two weeks after schools had a chance to return to classes and that “high risk” sports like football and volleyball should be moved to spring.
But now the spring option for any sports appears off the table as the CIAC continues to negotiate how to conduct the fall season under the DPH’s guidelines.
Football was scheduled to begin cohort training on Aug. 17 and all other sports set to follow on Aug. 27, which was reaffirmed by a unanimous vote by the CIAC’s Board of Control on August 12.
But in a letter to the CIAC released the following day, DPH acting commissioner Deidre S. Gifford made her recommendation. In response, the CIAC announced a week-long sports conditioning moratorium so it could confer with the DPH on how it should proceed. The delay kick-started another round of anxiety across the state as the wait began anew.