The Fairchester Athletic Association canceled its winter sports season back in November due to COVID-19, but that didn’t mean the season was over for several of the schools.
Programs were able to conduct virtual conditioning over the last couple of months and on Tuesday, were allowed to hold practices for the first time once the statewide ban for all youth sports competition was lifted.
Greens Farms Academy in Westport and Hopkins in New Haven were among the FAA schools that held some practices on Tuesday. Hamden Hall Country Day and St. Luke’s began on Wednesday.
“I talked to a lot of coaches after practice. The feeling was it was great for the coaches to see the kids happy to be back doing something in person,” Hopkins athletic director Rocco DeMaio said. “We want to get back into it slowly, do it gradually, make sure the kids are in shape. Because we are still hybrid (for school), only half the kids are there at at time.”
Hopkins began practice in the sports of boys and girls basketball, boys and girls swimming, boys and girls squash and boys and girls fencing. Just conditioning was held in wrestling since it is considered a high-risk sport by the State Department of Public Health.
According to the Greens Farms website, the school began practice in both boys and girls basketball on Tuesday and will continue through Friday.
Hopkins began with work in individual skills development and non-contact drills in its maroon and gray cohorts – also the school colors. Because students in the maroon group attend school one week and the gray the following week, entire teams won’t be able to practice together.
“Hopkins is still in the hybrid learning model, which complicates thing for the time being,” DeMaio said. He declined comment on the possibility of having scrimmages with other teams before the end of February.
The FAA’s spring season preseason practice is scheduled to begin March 1.
St. Luke’s athletic director Michael West confirmed that practice began on Wednesday in the sports of boys and girls basketball, ice hockey, dry land skiing and boys and girls squash.
Brunswick athletic director Ron VanBelle said this first week of practice is going “very well” with everyone getting back together.
“The boys and coaches are excited to be back practicing as a team. The energy and enthusiasm being shown confirms for me that these student-athletes crave and need physical activity and just want to play their sports, even with masks on,” VanBelle said.
Student-athletes must wear masks for competition in all moderate-risk sports like basketball and hockey.
Hamden Hall athletic director Dave Doyle said practice began in boys and girls basketball, boys and girls swimming and hockey starting off ice. Doyle said he hopes the hockey team could get some ice time by the end of next week.
“It is a possibility by mid-February (that games could happen),” Doyle said. “We have not gotten clearance yet from our school. The best case is we hope to play three to four boys and girls varsity games, four to five virtual swim meets, while hockey is still in limbo with ice time.”
Doyle said in the fall, the Hornets played some games on the weekends, allowing parents to transport their kids. That possibility exists again if games are held this winter.
Doyle noted that the New England Prep School Athletic Council extended the winter season to March 20, meaning any school in the region can schedule winter games to that point. Doyle said the Hornets may go past March 1, but not too long after.
“I don’t want to our kids finishing what is left of the winter season while starting the spring season,” Doyle said.
The FAA athletic directors meet weekly. Spring season plans have already been discussed. Spring of 2020 was the first of three straight seasons the FAA canceled due to the coronavirus.
DeMaio, the president of the FAA, anticipates a decision on the spring season coming in mid-February.
”I think w have definitely shifted our focus to the spring knowing those kids already lost a season. We don’t want to make any accommodations for the winter to affect the possibility of our spring sports happening,” said DeMaio, also Hopkins’ baseball coach.
Said Doyle: “It would be devastating for the kids to lose two straight spring seasons.”