The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s move to the second phase of its return to the resocialization of sports and activities will begin Monday as previously scheduled.
The move will come almost three weeks after the second phase of Gov. Ned Lamont’s state re-opening plan and a week after the state issued a 50-page plan to help with the return to in-school education in the fall.
“This (second phase going forward) is a good sign based on the positive trend that continues in Connecticut through the governor’s re-opening strategy plan,” CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini said. “The plan right now is we will start fall practice as scheduled with football Aug. 17, and all the other sports on Aug. 27.”
But Lungarini is quick to caution that it can change as long as the COVID-19 pandemic remains in our daily lives.
“It’s important to clarify that doesn’t mean we will start as normal. We are on track to start as scheduled as long as people maintain social distancing with people wearing face masks and not engaging in physical activities (in large groups),” Lungarini said. “We cannot ignore the fact that we are dealing with a highly contagious disease and a global pandemic. … We will continue to monitor things on a daily basis and make what adjustments we need to come back as safely as possible.”
One significant change made at Monday’s CIAC Board of Control meeting was eliminating the in-person skill development between coaches and a small group of athletes that was supposed to take place starting this coming Monday. Only in-person conditioning can take place as in years past.
The move was originally instituted because the student-athletes have not participated in organized activities for three months due to the pandemic.
Lungarini said the issues that arose with the skill development implementation was attempting to add something new once July 1 begins. This is similar to issues that would have occurred had there been a shortened spring high school sports season trying to extend past June.
“There were a number of concerns with the month of July. There were definitely some issues with contractual concerns when adding things that aren’t there (originally), adding responsibilities to coaches and athletic directors and concerns and issues with insurance,” Lungarini said.
Lungarini noted that when the CIAC conducted an informal poll regarding the addition of skill development, “57 percent of the superintendents who responded voted to just have the conditioning we normally would have and 70 percent of the leagues asked to take it out.”
All conditioning will take place outdoors during the four weeks of this second phase.
All of the safety precautions that people have been using in their daily lives to combat the coronavirus carry over to the return of athletics as well, including social distancing, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer when you cannot wash your hands and not sharing any equipment. Health screenings, testing and contact tracing will be left up to the individual school districts.
The CIAC Board of Control, with consultation from the Connecticut State Medical Society Sports Medicine Committee approved extending validations for sports physicals for fall season sports participants from 13 months to 15.
“They suggested 15 months was appropriate based on the limited availability of pediatricians,” Lungarini said. “You don’t want to deny kids a chance to play because he or she doesn’t have a physical.”
Lungarini said the Board of Control approved putting together a subcommittee to evaluate the fall season. The subcommittee would include superintendents, principals, athletic directors, trainers, coaches and doctors meeting once a week virtually until the fall practices are scheduled to begin.
The next Board of Control meeting is Aug. 3, when the next phase of the return to athletics is scheduled to begin. That would include expanding to more people together outdoors and the use of indoor facilities.
That would also be around the time that the CIAC would have to make a final determination if all fall sports will be played and if sports from other seasons would be moved due to lower risk of transmission of the virus.
Lungarini has said all along that the return of sports coincides with the return to in-school learning. Having the state’s plan for the return to in-school learning put into place provides guidance for sports to continue on this current path.
“Kids need sports. Kids need extra-curricular activities,” Lungarini said. “Kids need music, they need theater, they need these things to continue to have positive relationships with adults. The most stressful part about all of this for everybody has been the isolation. As much as technology is a means to communicate with each other, we all need to have those in-person experiences with each other from a social and emotional standpoint.”
Lungarini said the CIAC continues to monitor what other states are going through, the rise in COVID-19 cases in younger people in certain states. He is curious how the return of summer baseball in the state will go as well, being a former college player and coach.
“At our core, we are an education-based athletic opportunity,” Lungarini said. “We will continue to coordinate and collaborate with school leaders. The primary focus is to get back to curricular instruction and extra-curricular activities.”