It’s the middle of September, a few short days away from the beginning of autumn, and closer to Halloween than the Fourth of July. We have been living with and under the threat of a pandemic now for half the year, adjusting our lives to fit what we all hope is a temporary “new normal.”
And yet, as of this moment, there is still not an official resolution to the question of football when it comes to high school athletics.
To again criticize the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) for its handling of the issue would be an exercise in beating a horse that has already died a few deaths. The CIAC’s inability to establish a concrete plan and proceed with it has made what always promised to be a difficult situation worse, a point on which both sides of the “let them play” debate can seemingly agree.
All of that, however, has been well chronicled, needs no further scrutiny and is, mercifully, in the past. What CIAC and the Department of Public Health should be focused on at the moment is actually coming up with a plan to get athletes playing football again sometime in the near future.
Does that mean in the winter? Would that mean spring football? Could it mean temporarily making dramatic but workable alterations to the sport in order to allow it to be played in the fall? All of these options have been and should be on the table, and it’s high-time one is chosen and implemented.
This is not an impossible task. Almost every other state in the union has developed a plan to play high school football, whether it be during the fall, winter, or spring. Those that did cancel the season came to that conclusion a long while ago.
Massachusetts has devised a “floating schedule” for traditional fall sports; New York’s plan is to hold something called “Fall Sports Season II” to begin March 1, 2021; Rhode Island went to a four-season model for sports this year; and Vermont announced its plans to move to a 7-on-7 no-tackle model for the fall, with a chance that full-contact football could be played in the spring.
In other words, states in similar situations as Connecticut, having dealt with the worst of the pandemic in the spring, have figured out plans to play football at some point in the coming school year.
Connecticut needs to join them.
This is not just about canceling a mere recreation for students. For many, football is the thing in their life that provides not only excitement and enjoyment, but also structure. For others, it’s a ticket to a scholarship, one that may mean the difference between attending the university they prefer, or not.
And this isn’t just about football. Of course, a school district’s first priority must be in providing for the basic education of students. But at a time when evidence is mounting that younger people are having extreme difficulties coping with the forced isolation of the pandemic, extra-curricular activities become more than just a luxury.
Yes, the virus is boss. It will decide future schedules, for sports and everything else. But Connecticut’s neighboring states have found a way to proceed with football in as safe a manner as possible. There’s no reason CIAC and the DPH can’t do the same.