The decision to move forward with fall sports by the CIAC’s Board of Control on Wednesday was praised by coaches and committee members, who said the CIAC put in a lot of time, thought and effort into its plan.
The decision follows several days of committee meetings for each of the fall sports, with each committee then submitting their recommendations to the CIAC Board of Control.
“I think the CIAC is trying to do the best they can to give our high school athletes an experience in as safe as possible environment, so I commend them for that and I commend them for putting themselves out there,” Mark Berkowitz, Weston’s athletic director and a member of the CIAC committee for boys and girls soccer, said. “The easy thing to do is to just walk away, throw your hands up and say we can’t do anything so let’s just cancel it. They weren’t willing to do that. They were willing to take the necessary steps to put us in a position to try and have a season.”
Committees for volleyball, soccer, field hockey, cross country and girls swimming recommended moving forward with the fall season, while the football committee had recommended postponing its season to the spring due to coronavirus concerns.
For volleyball, soccer, field hockey, cross country and swimming, practices will begin on Aug. 27 in cohorts of 15, with the first day of full team practices on Sept. 11. The first day for regular season games and meets is scheduled for Sept. 24, with the regular season ending no later than Oct. 30.
“It is the light at the end of the tunnel,” SCC commissioner Al Carbone said. “It’s been a long five months and it is great for the student-athletes, coaches and parents to get this opportunity, and I am sure everyone will work together to follow the guidelines.”
“I’m happy that our student athletes in the FCIAC are going to have the opportunity to participate in sports this fall,” FCIAC commissioner Dave Schulz said. ”And we as a league will look to assure that it’s done in the safest possible manner.”
A maximum of 12 games are allowed during the regular season, with a “tournament experience” to follow if possible.
Dan Woog, Staples’ boys soccer coach for 18 years, said the CIAC took in all perspectives, listening to coaches, athletic directors, trainers and school superintendents, before making its decision.
“They did not jump into anything,” Woog said. “They recognize that this is a fluid situation; they understand many kids have been playing through the summer with club teams and on their own, and they’ve put in place a tremendous amount of safeguards.”
The CIAC’s statement reiterated that its fall sports plan remains subject to change based on any new developments concerning the virus’ transmission.
“We will continue to consult our education partners, medical experts, and review positions from state leaders and departments,” the CIAC’s statement said. “However, the CIAC believes that the approved plan aligns with the educational interests of our member schools and provides the safest athletic experience for Connecticut student athletes.”
The key to making the season work, according to Berkowitz and Woog, will be making sure everyone involved with the programs adhere to the safety protocols.
“People need to follow the protocols and hold themselves accountable — their coaches, their athletes, their athletes’ parents, and all the way down the line,” Berkowitz said. “If that happens, we have a good chance of getting through this whole season. If it doesn’t happen, and people cut corners and try to skirt the system, then it’s going to be more difficult.”
“Parents can’t be sneaking onto the sidelines,” Woog said. “It really will require the buy-in and diligence of everyone, and even then it might not work. But for our kids, they held on all summer to that hope they would have a season and they’re thrilled.
“There won’t be a state tournament and there might not even be an FCIAC tournament, but for them to be able to play 12-14 games, be there with their buddies, and have something to look forward to… that’s very important for their physical and emotional health.”