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Ability to Adapt Key to Resumption of High School Sports

Administrators hope to find some way to make it work
Published: Nov. 29, 2020 at 9:26 AM EST
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JERICHO, Vt. (WCAX) - It wasn’t much of a surprise for the high schools to hear they wouldn’t be able to start Winter sports practices on Monday like originally planned.

“I knew given the six weeks of preseason quote unquote, that we’d have a lot of time to figure this out,” said MMU Activities Director David Marlow. “We’d also have a lot of time for things to get delayed.”

Marlow says that gap between the start of practice and when games were initially going to be allowed was meant to serve as a buffer where the state could see if the indoor activity was causing problems at the schools.

“My initial thought was we had it working in the Fall so we were hopeful for the Winter,” Marlow said. “The obvious challenges are for the sports who are indoors and the close contact, specifically basketball. But then you start looking at dance competitions and ski events outside where the resorts or the venues are not allowing indoor traffic basically in their main buildings. So there’s a lot of different variables that come into play.”

For now, that becomes a moot point. Case counts are up to a level where the state doesn’t feel comfortable allowing teams to start preparing for a theoretical Winter season. Governor Phil Scott has said that it’s an indefinite suspension, and they’ll revisit it on a weekly basis if the situation becomes more tenable. There’s still plenty of runway to get something close to a full season in, but Marlow says the schools can’t just flip a switch here: it requires a lot of dialogue to be ready to ramp things up assuming Scott eventually gives the green light.

“A lot of meetings with a lot of different people,” Marlow responded when asked how his department plans to ramp back up. “You know I’m lucky to have a great admin team here and we meet and communicate on a regular basis, and I think that helps developing a plan and a protocol so we can be proactive in this, as well as having a Plan B and Plan C, because like everything this information is changing on a daily basis.”

Assuming sports can resume at some point, there are still going to have to be some serious changes to the way teams operate.

“It comes down to trusting and holding your coaches accountable and I think here we’re lucky we have a great coaching staff,” Marlow said. “Being able to allow a little flexibility as well, you know gone are the days where you need to mandate everyone is at practice. If we have students here who are stretched out amongst five different towns and they’re unable to attend practice because they’re learning remotely that day, then the expectation is that that’s ok for the flexibility piece as long as it’s communicated.”

As for that Plan B or even Plan C, Marlow says that it’s important that they find some way to make this season work for the kids, even if it looks nothing like a normal year.

“As long as we can get kids filling this gym on a daily basis after school, that’s my ultimate goal,” Marlow said. “If that means we get to play another school or attend another school to play interscholastically, then that’s just gravy on top. In the long run, I think being together with their friends and their social group and for their mental health and their mental awareness, I think it’s huge and key for them to be able to participate in a sport that they enjoy this Winter. Whether that looks like an intramural style format throughout the Winter if it comes down to that or interscholastically, I think that’s the most important factor, that the kids just want to play. Otherwise it’s a super long Winter in Vermont.”

But for now the high schools are just going to have to wait and hope the situation improves enough to allow the kids some sort of season.

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