By Matt Noonan
A few months ago, we started to debate if and when a college football season would occur. But that debate is slowly ending – as of now, most New England conferences and schools have elected to punt on the upcoming fall sports season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
And while more decisions should be coming over the next few days and weeks – will Boston College really play football or soccer this fall? – the focus has quickly shifted to our local high school student-athletes, who are eager to return to the playing field.
High school sports abruptly ended in March due to stay-at-home orders and lockdowns so everyone could stay safe and healthy. But now, some states, including Florida and Georgia, are planning to allow teams to begin preparations for their respective seasons next week while Texas has informed two of its conferences (5A and 6A) that they won’t be holding any practices until early September.
Here in Massachusetts, high school sports cannot begin until Monday, September 14 while Maine won’t permit teams to begin their respective campaigns until Tuesday, September 8. And mind you, these dates are for practices, not games.
New Hampshire should provide its student-athletes with some guidance and plans for a fall season over the next week or two, according to Ryan O’Leary of Seacoastonline.com, who recently spoke with Jeff Collins, who heads the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA).
Vermont is not planning to begin its fall season next month and most likely Connecticut and Rhode Island won’t allow any of its teams to practice in August either.
While many want to see our local student-athletes back on the field this year, one should remember that this pandemic has taught us the following: things can change pretty quickly. And while it should be viewed as a positive that all six committees are working tirelessly to develop plans and guidelines for their student-athletes to safely return to the field, it is not definite that all six New England states will begin their fall seasons on these exact dates.
Seeing our local high school sports teams in action this fall would certainly provide us with some sense of normalcy, but before any games or practices are held, the first step should be to find a way to safely return students, teachers, and principals to the classroom. And once that is done properly then sports, along with additional extracurricular activities should begin.