Fall high school sports ready for return to normal

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 6:14 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont students are heading back to school this week, which means fall sports are also warming up. While players are happy to return to sports that were canceled or modified by the pandemic last fall, there are worries about the new delta variant.

Last year, soccer tryouts involved masks, social distancing, and no sharing equipment between teammates.

“It feels great to be back. More importantly, to be back without masks and without any sort of restrictions on how we can perform our practices -- with contact, with a soccer ball -- which we couldn’t do starting last season,” said Lori Mcclallen, head coach for the Rutland girls soccer program.

She says about 40 girls tried out for the team last year. This year there are 57, bringing back just about everyone who took a year off and some more. But COVID precautions are still being taken.

“During practice, you don’t have to wear a mask. If you don’t feel good, don’t come. We’re taking precautions in school or if we go out to any public places, we wear masks,” said Olivia Calvin, a senior on the team.

And teams get to play schools they didn’t go up against last year. “Couldn’t play anyone from the north. It was weird, but we were grateful to play. So, this year, it’s like a bonus,” said senior Kathryn Moore.

Rutland High School girls soccer team at practice.
Rutland High School girls soccer team at practice.(WCAX)

Student-athletes at Middlebury Union High School are also excited to get back to the full schedule, but there are some worries. Hannah Turner, a senior, fears the delta variant may spread and require them to mask back up. “Very nervous. It was such a relief when we didn’t have to wear masks anymore,” she said.

Football programs last year had to play 7 on 7 and they weren’t allowed to tackle. This year, the game is back to normal. “Being able to tackle again is definitely different -- I love it. The first hit is a little stunning, but you get used to it,” said Sam Warren, a senior on the MHUS football team.

Reilly Flanders, a senior on the Fair Haven Union High School football team, feels the same way. “It feels great. A lot better than seven on seven -- anticlimactic. It was just so boring. There were no fans out, it did not feel right at all,” he said.

As students prepare to pack the stands again in Rutland, coach McClallen says just being on the field as normal has lessened the anxiety and boosted team enthusiasm. “High fives are back. You couldn’t even do that last year. I think it’s just that encouragement and confidence that they give each other has been renewed,” she said.

High schools begin playing each other next week.

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