Lessons Learned from H.S. Fall Sports

What the VPA hopes to take into the Winter
Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 10:40 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - At the end of the day, they made it work.

“Who would have ever imagined the first weekend in November we’d be sitting here with 70 degree temperatures?" VPA Associate Executive Director Bob Johnson said of last weekend’s Fall sports finale. "But you know there we were and it’s done and over.”

Eight soccer sides, three field hockey squads, a quartet of golf teams, six cross country groups, and one bass fishing boat laid claim to Vermont state titles this Fall, to go along with regional championships in both 7 on 7 football and volleyball. Johnson admits they weren’t 100% confident it would all work out back in the Summer.

“We had no idea how it was gonna turn out," Johnson said. "You know, 7 on 7 football, we’ve never done that before. We’re gonna have to do outdoor volleyball, we’ve never done that before. We’re gonna have to modify our sports seasons, we’ve never done that before.”

In addition to working out the kinks of actually teaching some kids to play almost completely different sports, they had to find ways around a shortage of officials.

“We had a number of officials who opted out," he said. "We had situations where normally you’d have three officials in a soccer game and they only got two officials in a soccer game. It all came down to the assigners in making sure they could cover what they had.”

A large chunk of the planning goes through the VPA or individual sports' committees, but at the end of the day, it’s on the schools to make the logistics work, and Johnson gives them a lot of credit for being flexible.

“The schools did a wonderful job," he said. "You know, everything that was thrown at them with a short period of time, to be able to go back a re-do all of their schedules and their teams and just to take care of all the little nitty-gritty stuff that most people don’t even think about, they did a wonderful job.”

Now in the grand scheme of things, the best laid plans mean nothing when COVID rears its ugly head. The Fall sports season wasn’t completely immune from the virus, including positive cases that threatened state semifinal games last week. But rapid responses from the affected schools and the state mitigated its impact.

“Fortunately the Department of Health has been very responsive to schools, very quick, and in both cases we had last week, both schools were given permission to continue on," he said.

That kind of commitment and foresight is going to be crucial as we head inside for Winter sports, especially with case counts on the rise.

“I think that starting November 30th and giving us a full six weeks before we go into competition gives us that buffer time that we’ll need,” Johnson said of the state’s plan to not start interscholastic competition until January 11th. "If during that time, we see incidents continue to rise and the percentage gets up there that we can’t have sports, then the decision will be made and we won’t have sports. We’re giving the students enough time, over six weeks to get used to wearing masks indoors, so I think by the time we come to January, we will have had the time to try and work this out.”

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