Across Connecticut, hundreds of high school athletes are anxious to return to competition. With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and school officials are working to try to provide a sports experience for students this fall.
On Wednesday, Aug. 12, at 2 p.m., the CIAC Board of Controls will meet to hear from all of the fall sports committees. The committees consist of school administrators, coaches and athletic directors, while the Board of Controls has 19 member-school principals and assistant principals. Executive Director Glenn Lungarini added that no CIAC staff member has a board vote.
“Since the onset of this (the pandemic) last winter and spring, our focus has been to provide safe experiences and try to outline a plan with our schools because we are an education-based opportunity,” explained Lungarini. “With COVID, information changes within our state and the country.”
The CIAC Football Committee has voted 9-1 in favor of pushing the football season to the spring of 2021, according to sources with knowledge of the vote. The recommendation would need to be approved by the Board of Control.
Lungarini didn’t comment on the football meeting, but said that each committee is reviewing plans and will be heard by the board. Football teams are scheduled to start organized team activities on Monday.
“I understand that football is in a tough spot right now on the high school and college levels,” said Cheshire High School Athletic Director Steve Trifone. “I want to make sure that it is done properly.”
If football was moved to the spring, athletes, coaches, and administrators are interested to see if the schedule could conflict with other sports teams. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the CIAC canceled the spring season this year.
“We are not sure of the plan for spring. We don’t want it (football) to interfere with athletes playing other spring sports,” stated Trifone. “I’m a big proponent of multisport athletes. I don’t think specializing in one sport has to be the only way to go.”
With time, Trifone is hopeful that a coronavirus vaccine can be developed or that the virus can be eradicated to allow for student-athletes and spectators to share in the normal sports atmosphere.
“Football is a fan sport, and I support wanting to have people at the games, if we can do it safely,” explained Trifone.
The CIAC volleyball and swim/dive committees also met on Monday. Cross country and field hockey meetings were held on Tuesday, while soccer representatives are scheduled to talk on Wednesday morning.
“Sports like soccer and field hockey have club games going on now, so I hope we can continue with that at the high school level,” stated Trifone.
On July 31, the CIAC announced a revised fall sports plan in which football teams are allowed to play up to six regular-season games, as well as tournament contests. Other fall sports teams will be given the opportunity to set up 12 regular-season games and then also see if they can have a tournament experience.
This summer, teams are having the chance to condition in cohorts. Skill work in groups of 15 people is scheduled to begin on Aug. 27.
“We want to give the students some sort of athletic experience this year,” said Southington Athletic Director Steve Risser. “When you include band and other extra curriculars, those are positive activities to participate in. The important thing is that it has to be done safely.”
Trifone understands that athletes want to be back playing with their friends, as well as being recruited to play on the next level.
“Kids want to showcase themselves and display what they can do. Junior and senior years are important for college,” explained Trifone. “We want to make sure that our athletes and fans are healthy. Nobody wants to put anyone at risk.”
While CIAC committees are discussing fall sports plans, leagues have been getting together to create revised regional schedules. On Tuesday, Risser participated in a meeting with the Central Connecticut Conference.
“The whole idea was to keep down issues with transportation,” said Risser. “We have the biggest league in the state, so we are trying to find good schedules for everyone right now.”
Lungarini has been pleased with the communication between athletic, school, and health officials. In looking to bring students back for in-school instruction this fall, he feels that athletics and extra-curricular activities should be included in the academic experience.
“The sports and activities give students motivation in schools,” said Lungarini.