One Week Away: the H.S. fall sports season is set to begin
Teams can begin practicing on the first day of the new school year, Sept. 8th, but when games can begin is not set in stone.
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - We are one week away from the start of the school year, and one week away from the return of high school sports.
Fall sports teams will be allowed to begin practicing on the first day of school, September 8th. Vermont Principals’ Association Associate Executive Director Bob Johnson told Channel Three Sports on Tuesday that, as of today, he anticipates that all schools to ready to open their fall seasons when they are allowed. But moving from the practice field to playing actually games will still be an uneven process.
Under the state’s “Strong and Healthy Start” plan, schools will open in Step II of the return process, which will allow intrasquad practices and workouts, but only when state health leaders give the go-ahead to move to Step III will teams be allowed to play teams from other schools.
That shift could come as soon as ten days to two weeks if all goes well, putting the first date for games around Monday, the 21st, but it’s not a guarantee that it will happen that quickly. That is one reason why the Northern Vermont Athletic Conference, which overseas around 40 high schools across northern Vermont, has decided to push back the start of league play in soccer, field hockey and volleyball to the last week of September, Monday the 28th. The 24-school Southern Vermont League is still scheduling games for the week of the 21st, but again, that could change.
On top of the clearance from state health officials, the VPA requires teams to hold ten practices before they can begin playing games. Johnson says, with many school districts using hybrid learning models, or starting out fully remote, that adds to the hurdles that will need to be cleared before games may begin.
“With many schools going to different models, a lot of schools are using hybrid models where students may only be in two or three times a week. And if they are, finding a way to get 10 practices in is going to be difficult.”, says Johnson. “The NVAC chose to say, ‘let’s give it another week’. Personally, I think that was a good decision. I think they’ll have a lot less in terms of canceling situations.”
But even with those challenges and others, the goal is to get student-athletes on their chosen field of play and get them playing. Johnson says the VPA has received a steady stream of venting of frustrations over the mask mandate for athletes while they are playing, but that mandate stands. He says there will also be challenges regarding travel, scheduling and more that will pop up as the fall season moves forward, but that everyone involved is committed to making it work as best as possible.
“With everything we’ve been given with this coronavirus situation, people want to be out there. They want to be playing. The students want to be on the field, whether it’s with a mask or without a mask, it doesn’t matter.”, says Johnson. “I think when we get to September 8th, we’re going to be ready to go. And they’re still going to be some unanswered questions, but I think we’ll be out on the field, the coaches will be there, the students will be there, the officials will be there and we will start and I think everyone is looking forward to it.”
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