BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Monday was originally set as the day that high school winter sports teams could begin playing games.
The start of the winter season was delayed four weeks, from late November, to just after Christmas. when Governor Phil Scott gave the OK for teams to hold workouts. Those workouts allowed for individual skills, strength and conditioning training, but no contact, and required physical distancing and mask wearing.
Some schools begin immediately, others waited until students returned from winter break. The state’s largest school, Essex, was set to begin on Monday, but the district switched to remote learning for two days after a positive COVID test within the school community. Essex athletic director Pat Merriam told Channel Three Sports he hopes practices can begin on Wednesday.
Bob Johnson of the Vermont Principals’ Association says that even once the Governor and state health officials give permission for teams to full practices and scrimmages, teams would need to hold ten practices before they could begin competitions against other schools, so the best possible scenario has a start date for game now looking like late January or the first week of February.
Johnson says one thing that has stood out to him about the start of the winter season so far is that some schools are telling him that they have had fewer students come out for their teams than they would in a typical year.
Johnson says that, unlike the fall and spring where almost all sports are played outdoors, the fact that most of the winter sports take place indoors, and will still have masking wearing requirements and other restrictions that would impact the excitement and atmosphere of those sports, could be a factor in those lower numbers choosing to participate.
“The biggest problem with the winter is that you have to be indoors and everything has been really restricted in terms of what you can do.”, says Johnson. “People aren’t looking forward to the fact that, OK, we can play basketball, but no fans. Or we can play hockey, but no fans. Parents aren’t looking forward to that, students aren’t looking forward to that, but that’s a reality.”
Now, not all of the high school winter sports are held indoors. The VPA offers three outdoor winter sports, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. They are also all individual sports, where social distancing measures could be established for both practices and competitions.
Johnson says the VPA feels those sports could be moving forward with their seasons, and in fact, those sports are seeing a strong turnout this season, but that state is insisting that all high school winter sports follow the same timetable for when they will be allowed to move forward.
“We haven’t gotten any further on that discussion at all, which is unfortunate, because the (outdoor) winter teams are seeing probably record numbers coming out for their teams because they could do something.”, says Johnson. “Even though it’s only skills and drills cross, the country team can you still get out there and they can ski. So we were a little surprised with it, but at this point right now they have to wait just like everybody else does.”
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