The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s (CIAC) Board of Control voted on Tuesday to postpone the start of the scholastic winter sports season until Tuesday, January 19, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is the first date that practices could be held. With sports requiring 10 days of practices, competition could possibly begin in the first week of February.
Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the CIAC, all sports are currently scheduled to start, including wrestling, which is currently classified as a high-risk sport by the Connecticut Department of Health. A decision on wrestling would be made in January.
COVID-19 infection rates have been on the rise in Connecticut and around the country. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont reported Tuesday that 1,702 state residents tested positive for the virus with a 5.16 positivity rate.
Positive tests across the state for COVID-19 have resulted in teachers and students being forced to quarantine. Some school districts are struggling to keep enough teachers in school due to quarantining.
The CIAC and their member schools are placing a priority on keeping students and teachers in class for in-person learning. Some school districts adopted a hybrid model with students split into cohorts attending school two days a week and attending remotely two days a week.
Published reports have some state school districts moving to all remote learnings mainly due to staffing issues due to positive tests and quarantines to minimize the spread of the virus.
“We want our kids to be in the classroom as much as possible and we want our communities to be safe,” Lungarini said. “The (Board of Control) felt this decision gave clear direction and keeps safety in our schools at the forefront.”
The CIAC surveyed their member schools and 41 percent said they would halt all sports practices and games if the school was being conducted remotely. Fourteen percent said they would cancel all games but allow practices.
Pre-season practices for winter sports were originally scheduled to begin on November 7 with games beginning on December 7.
The CIAC Board of Control will continue to collaborate with the state Department of Health (DPH), Gov. Lamont’s office and the Connecticut State Medical Society’s Sports Medicine Committee to evaluate the situation.
Lungarini said the CIAC will be meeting in the coming weeks to adjust the winter schedule. It normally ends in early March.
Sports that don’t get an opportunity during their traditional season may be able to play in an alternative season from March 19 through April 17. Football is hoping to play some games during this period.
“They made a decision that had to be made. They put it off in hopes that it can turn around,” Canton High boys basketball coach Craig Archambault said. “I’ve told our kids to stay optimistic and stay positive. Enjoy the holidays with your families. You’ve got an extra two months to get prepared and in shape. I do think we will play. It’s just a matter of when.”
His players have played in some fall basketball leagues in Canton and New Britain to get ready for the season. They have been playing in masks.
“We’ll be ready whenever,” he said. “We know it won’t be the same as last year and it won’t look as it has the past few years. But they want something. A practice or a game.”
Simsbury had a senior-dominated team that was set to make a run for the State Open championship in wrestling. Because of its high-risk status as determined by the state Department of Health, they can’t even practice at this time. Only non-contact drills are allowed — which isn’t helpful in a contact sport such as wrestling.
Head coach T.J. Silva is hoping to at least practice. “I am hoping whether we go in January or the alternative season is for the kids to have an opportunity to have a positive experience. I hope at the very least they can get into the (practice) room and be with their teammate, get some training and have a positive experience.”
Lungarini praised the work of schools, athletic directors and athletes this fall.
He said there were 7,800 contests in all sports at all levels. If you add in practices, it was an estimated 31,000 events. Lungarini said there seven positive COVID-19 tests that could were traced back by local Departments of Health to a CIAC or a school-sanctioned event – a transmission rate of 0.22 percent
“The strategy, the work of our athletic directors, the adherence of our coaches and athletes (to those protocols) was exceptional,” Lungarini said.
He said the CIAC was proud to provide around 30,000 athletes an opportunity to play sports this fall. Despite being limited to regional groups, schools fielded teams in boys and girls soccer, field hockey, girls volleyball, girls swimming and boys and girls cross country.
Football was not a sanctioned or sponsored activity by the CIAC and its member schools although some students did play in private football leagues.