For high school volleyball teams, this month has been one of uncertainty.
With the state’s Department of Public Health submitting new fall recommendations to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), players and coaches have had to wait and see if they would have the opportunity to take to the court amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Fortunately for the girls, that confusion has been alleviated. Citing the current health metrics in the state, the CIAC announced last Wednesday night it was moving forward with fall sports.
Starting this past Saturday, teams could engage in low-risk conditioning and non-contact skill workouts through Sept. 20. On Sept. 21, the CIAC believes there will be enough COVID-19 data from in-school instruction to gauge if the process can move to full-team practices.
Cheshire coach Sue Bavone is happy that her volleyball team has an opportunity to play, but worries that when school starts it will be harder to contain the spread of COVID-19. At the advice of Cheshire Athletic Director Steve Trifone, she is looking to make her cohort groups look like the school’s hybrid model.
“The school cohorts are going to be done alphabetically, so Steve suggests that we do that for team groups to limit their interaction with other kids,” explained Bavone.
While volleyball is classified as a moderate-risk sport, DPH has expressed concern about playing this fall. In a letter sent to the CIAC on Aug. 13, the organization recommended canceling the 2020 season or moving it to next year.
In a second letter sent more than a week ago, DPH said it was open to the idea of volleyball being moved outdoors. The CIAC feels that playing matches outside isn’t feasible, but recommends that conditioning take place out of the gym.
To allow time for reviewing the DPH recommendations, the CIAC chose to pause all in-person activities from Aug. 14-24. Last week, teams were allowed to restart conditioning cohorts.
Going forward, the CIAC plans to monitor COVID-19 metrics on a daily basis and update member schools every Friday.
Through Sept. 20, athletes can condition and work on sport-specific skills in cohorts of 10. Practice is limited to one hour.
With 48 girls, Cheshire plans to start working outside and then head into the gym for skill work on Sept. 11. Coaches have also sent plans to players, so they can work on things at home.
“We have six seniors running our cohorts and I have to credit them because they have made things much easier for me,” said Bavone, who doesn’t plan to hold tryouts until Sept. 21.
At practice, volleyball coaches are required to wear masks at all times and it is recommended that players do the same when it is feasible. The CIAC has stated that there should also be no contact such as huddles, cheers or close-up action.
In the CIAC fall plan, volleyball teams are able to have up to 12 regional matches in the regular season. A “tournament experience” is scheduled from Nov. 7-21. The regular season is slated to begin on Oct. 1.