Following yesterday’s announcement from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker about lifting Covid-19 restrictions next Saturday, May 29, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA)issued a statement this morning that masks and facial covers will no longer be required for those competing outdoors.
The MIAA Sports Medicine Committee (SMC) “voted unanimously” to approve the guidelines the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) unveiled yesterday that would allow both youth and amateur sports participants to “no longer require face coverings for youth athletes 18 and under while playing outdoors.” The remaining restrictions will be lifted effectively on May 29.
In addition to no longer needing a face mask or covering while competing outside, student-athletes will no longer need to wear them on the bench or in a dugout. Those that compete in low-risk sports indoors will not have to wear a mask or face covering as long they can maintain at least 14 feet or more from other participants. Face masks and coverings will be required for those attending indoor events such as boy’s volleyball matches but not needed for outdoor contests, pending fans can safely distance themselves from others.
Excluding today’s decision on masks and facial coverings, no changes will be made to the MIAA sports modifications. However, the governing body of Massachusetts high school sports did say they would review the EEA guidelines as restrictions are lifted.
Happy Sunday, everyone – I can use the word “happy” in front of what day it is, right?
Well, no matter what, I hope everyone is doing well while having a wonderful weekend. And of course, I do hope this post – well, more my weekly column, to be exact – finds everyone thinking optimistically because better days are ahead, I believe it.
Similar to last week’s Sunday Thoughts, I am going to share ten quick thoughts heading into what I hope will be a wonderful week for everyone.
So, without further ado, here is this week’s Noontime’s Sunday Thoughts!
Thought No. 1: The Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers are the real deal. Yes, I know Ben Volin of the Boston Globe shared similar thoughts with his readers, but I think both teams could see each other early next week in Tampa, Florida to compete for the ultimate prize: the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Thought No. 2: Kudos to members of Bills Mafia, which performed a good deed last night after Lamar Jackson exited the game with what appeared to be a concussion. According to several outlets, following the conclusion of last night’s Buffalo-Baltimore Ravens game, members of Bills Mafia donated to Jackson’ favorite charity: Louisville’s chapter of Blessings in a Backpack. While its unknown how much money Buffalo fans donated, this is certainly an amazing story, as well as one of the many reasons why we ALL love sports, right?
Thought No. 3: I think the Cleveland Browns can beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Yep, I do. Cleveland has been a great story this season – they’re the underdog this afternoon – and it would be great to see Baker Mayfield and the Browns back in the conference title game for the first time since 1989.
Thought No. 4: Bold prediction: Tom Brady will throw three – maybe four? – touchdowns today and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will beat the New Orleans Saints in what will be Drew Brees‘ final contest in the National Football League (NFL).
Thought No. 5: Why does Cris Collinsworth always refer to a coach, player or someone within the NFL (or outside the league?) by starting his sentences with “here’s a guy?” Does anyone know?
Thought No. 6: Is it just me or was the 2020 college football season a disaster? I think this past fall was a horrible display of leadership, as well as a bad product. Sure, Alabama looked like world beaters compared to everyone else, but that was because of so many cancelations and postponements last summer and fall.
Thought No. 8: Sarah Fuller, who became the first female kicker to compete and score a point in a Power 5 college football game earlier this school year, will take part in Joe Biden‘s presidential inauguration this week. As noted in Pete Thamel‘s story on Yahoo! Sports, she considers this opportunity “an honor to be invited to participate in one of America’s great traditions.” Indeed, this is quite the honor for Fuller that I hope will continue to stay involved with football so she can continue to inspire more young women to pursue and accomplish their dreams, both on and off the field.
Thought No. 9: Call me crazy, but why are we playing high school sports during a pandemic? While the initial month of 2021 is far from over, it seems both this weekend (and the past few days) are an ideal time to crown high school football champions in both Michigan and Texas. Alright, good for them – yay, they finished their respective seasons – but maybe other states can do what Connecticut did and punt to next school year. Do the right thing and keep all the student-athletes safe and healthy.
Thought No. 10: I am a social media nerd and have really enjoyed following the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL), specifically their TikTok account. The content they have produced for TikTok is funny, which it should be. And I loved their recent video of waking up in the sunshine state: so peaceful.
In normal times, the high school winter sports season, both here in New England and around the country, would be well underway. But these are not normal times.
Due to the coronavirus, some states, including Massachusetts, are playing some sports this winter – of course, they don’t look like they usually do with mask-wearing to social distancing – while others like Alaska, Connecticut, and Virginia have yet to play a single regular season basketball contest as of this morning. Those states are set to begin competition later this month, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which recently unveiled its ‘Winter Sports Season Guide‘ on Friday, January 15.
The NFHS guide provides high school sports fans with a closer look – well, more a breakdown, to be exact – of who is playing and who is not to what states, including California, Hawaii, and Nevada that have yet to play a single sport this school year (2020-21).
When it comes to wearing masks during competition, 11 states, including Arizona, Kansas, and Kentucky, have mandated that everyone wears them except when competing while 19 states, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire, require all participants to cover their face, both on the bench and on the ice or hardwood.
While basketball was certainly the focus of this particular update, there were some interesting notes worth sharing (below) on the state of high school hockey:
Nine states are currently playing hockey – in fact, Ohio and Wisconsin started their respective seasons last November.
Six states have not dropped the puck this winter, including Connecticut, Michigan, and New York. Here in New England, Rhode Island has yet to announce when its schools will be able to play games, but practices are permitted. Vermont is currently not allowing its various programs to compete or practice.
Five states will conclude their respective seasons without a state championship while five others have yet to announce plans for postseason competition. Five states, including Alaska, Michigan, and North Dakota, have announced dates for their respective state finals.
While it is nice to see some states (and areas of the country) playing basketball and hockey, we certainly know these games should look a bit different – shall we say normal? – hopefully next fall and winter. But for now, make sure to wear your mask, social distance, and wash those hands.
Credit is due to not just the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Board of Directors and Covid-19 Task Force, but everyone that has been working tirelessly these past few months to provide our state’s high school student-athletes with some sense of normalcy during these unprecedented times.
As of today, the 2020 fall sports season will begin Monday, September 18 for the following sports: soccer, gymnastics, cross-country, field hockey, girl’s volleyball, swimming and diving, and golf. And just to be clear, the start date listed above means practices, not games.
Each contest, match, and meet will look quite different. And that is because we’re living in pandemic so don’t be surprised if the soccer committee completely rewrites the rules we’re accustomed to like header, throw-ins, and slide tackles, so every participant, including coaches and officials, can feel safe on the pitch.
As we anxiously await for future announcements – and yes, news and notes on Twitter – I feel it is best to stop and appreciate the hard work by these men and women, who have provided our state’s student-athletes with the hope of better days to come with a return to play format.
Yes, there is still a slew of questions that need to be answered with a new fall sports season on the horizon. There will also be new wrinkles to the current plan in place, too, but as we learned last week from our friend in Connecticut, the current situation is fluid and things could change because of the coronavirus.
But for now, our state has plans in place for a brand new high school sports season, which should put a smile on everyone’s face. And while the upcoming school year and yes, athletic year, too, will be rather unique, it will be a story many of us will be eager to tell our children and grandchildren when questions about the coronavirus pandemic are brought up in the future. And as someone that loves to tell stories, I will be excited – is excited the right word? – to share my experience.
Football, which is deemed a higher-risk activity by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), will compete during the “floating season,” which is scheduled to kick off Monday, February 22, and conclude Sunday, April 25. Cheerleading, unified basketball, and any other fall sport that cannot compete during the initial fall season, which is scheduled to commence Friday, September 18, will also be allowed to play games during the Fall II season, according to one of 11 recommendations approved by the Board of Directors.
With yesterday’s decision to delay the start of the 2020 high school football season, Massachusetts joins a growing list of other states that won’t play games this fall, including Colorado, Nevada, and North Carolina – all three states are scheduled to kick off their respective seasons in February, too.
Locally, the debate of if and when a high school football will occur continues to be a hot topic, especially in New Hampshire where some districts plan to play games this fall while others will not. According to WMUR, Bedford will not allow its student-athletes to play football or soccer, as well as compete for its crew team, but will permit bass fishing, cross country, field hockey, golf, and outdoor volleyball with some restrictions.
While there won’t be football games played on Friday evenings or Saturday afternoons this fall, teams will be permitted to practice but must adhere to the EEA’s guidelines for activities in Phase III, Step 1.