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Waiting game continues for some H.S. winter athletes

Indoor high school winter sports teams wait for the go-ahead to start their seasons.
Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 9:25 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It has been nearly two weeks since high school sports in the state of Vermont moved into phase two of the Winter restart plan.

After initially only being allowed to conduct individual skill work with contact and scrimmages banned, indoor sports like hockey and basketball are now operating closer to normal practices.

There was some hope within the VPA and member schools that Governor Phil Scott might be planning to allow interscholastic competition to begin as soon as next week, but no such announcement came at the Governor’s press conference Wednesday morning.

Instead, high school athletes remain in somewhat of a limbo state, back with their friends at practice but unsure when or if they will be able to use the skills they’re developing in actual games at some point this Winter.

Essex high school is one of the major powers in several division one sports in the state of Vermont, with both hockey programs, gymnastics, and both indoor track teams claiming at least one state title in the past two years in addition to the girls basketball crown shared with three other schools when last year’s state tournament was cut short.

The Hornets understand the larger COVID situation we’re all dealing with, but they’re also hoping they get the opportunity to return to competition sooner rather than later.

“Yeah it’s definitely a lot harder.”, said Essex girls basketball senior guard Anna Sabourin. “I mean in practice, you don’t know when your next game is, you don’t know if we’re gonna have games and so just like keeping that motivation throughout the entire practice is a little bit difficult. But just clinging onto that hope that we will have a game someday is just kind of pulling us through it.”

“Yeah it definitely is, but our coach just keeps pushing that our first game is gonna happen, we gotta be ready for it no matter what.”, added Ryan Clark, a senior boys hockey player at Essex. “So we’re just trying to get ready and be ready whenever and wherever we’re called to play.”

While patience is key, that doesn’t mean the clock isn’t ticking, especially when it comes to basketball and hockey, the two winter sports that hold traditional postseason tournaments.

Bob Johnson, the associate executive director of the VPA, says that if the state doesn’t give the go-ahead for games to begin soon, if they hold off until late, or even mid-February, then a conversation would need to be had about whether it makes sense to try and hold a playoff this winter in those two sports.

“If we don’t go within the next week or the next two weeks, we have to have a discussion about whether having a playoff type of system is more important, or should we just focus on the fact that we let the students play and just get in as many games as you can.”, said Johnson.

“You do get to a point that you simply have to say that we simply don’t have enough games to make this a true, viable state championship.

We did that in the fall, we were able to get everything in. The numbers were reduced because we played fewer games, but yes, at some point, we do have to have that conversation.”

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