A day after the CIAC’s executive director urged fall athletes and coaches to grasp onto any positive experience they can, New Haven’s football coaches were fighting to give their players a chance for one.
The city’s health department on Aug. 14 shut down volleyball and football, the two fall sports that the state Department of Public Health recommends that the CIAC not play this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hillhouse’s Reggie Lytle and Wilbur Cross’ John Acquavita were together at Bowen Field on Friday trying to spur a change in that call.
“We’re pleading to the mayor and the health director,” Acquavita said, “begging.”
New Haven and Bridgeport were the first two municipalities to opt out of fall football and volleyball, New Haven by the health department, Bridgeport by its superintendent. At least one other school, Nonnewaug, has taken itself out of fall competition, and other school boards have discussed concerns with at least football.
“Give these kids a chance,” Lytle said. “Give them an opportunity. Let them prove you wrong.”
The CIAC on Wednesday night released a updated plan for fall athletics, trying to construct a path toward an interscholastic season on Oct. 1 but trying to provide some sort of athletic “experience” in the meantime and maybe into October and November.
Every sport’s season is tenuous and depends on caseloads. Football’s is particularly tenuous because it’s deemed a high-risk sport for COVID transmission.
At least as of Friday afternoon, there was no change in New Haven.
The CIAC’s plan keeps all sports in 10-person “cohorts” until Sept. 21, two weeks after most schools start. If statewide and local COVID-19 metrics remain under predetermined levels, it plans to add limited contact in football on Sept. 14 and bring full teams together after Sept. 21 on the way toward first games on Oct. 1.
The CIAC has said that any sport whose fall season is canceled won’t be moved to the spring. Executive director Glenn Lungarini on Thursday said health metrics were expected to decline in the winter into the early spring.
The New Haven coaches, at least, wouldn’t have minded a chance in the spring.
“How is the CIAC to decide it’s not going to happen in the spring? I’m not too pleased with the CIAC,” Lytle said.
“That battle’s coming down the road,” Acquavita said.
“We’ve tried every avenue we can,” Lytle said. “We’ve talked to New Haven clergy and asked them to talk to the mayor and the health department. If you take away football, where are they going to go (after remote-learning schooling)? If you take away football, what are they going to do now? I’d hate to see a kid back on (Interstate) 91 off Exit 8 riding bikes again.”
That echoed something Lungarini said at a Thursday press conference, that giving kids structured athletics might even pick up a COVID-19 case before it had a chance to spread.
“If you have kids that are healthy and provide them that structured activity, that outlet, that peer relationship, that coach relationship, that mentorship opportunity,” Lungarini said, “whether they can be in a game this season or not, still holds extreme value for these kids’ mental, social, emotional, physical and cognitive well-being.”