By Matt Noonan
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.
Wednesday’s unanimous decision by the MIAA Board of Directors to accept plans for a four-season model by the Covid-19 Task Force, including the opportunity to play football next February, should be seen as a positive. But as we know, there is still a lot of work to be done as we inch closer to the official start of a new fall season, which will look quite different than years past.
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.
Modifications for each sport, which are due next Tuesday, August 25, must aline with the state’s current guidelines for Youth and Adult Amateur Sports Activities established by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).
According to Jim Clark of the Boston Globe, the Covid-19 Task Force will review the modifications and tweaks submitted by each sport’s committee next week “for final consideration by (Jeff) Granatino and MIAA executive director Bill Gaine by Sept. 1.”
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.