Practice begins on Tuesday for athletes playing high school basketball, ice hockey, gymnastics and swimming under a winter sports plan approved last Thursday by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s Board of Control with potential games beginning no sooner than February 8.
The sports are being allowed with conditions, including the use of masks during practice and games for basketball and ice hockey by everyone in the gym or rink, including the athletes. Wrestling, competitive cheering and competitive dance are not being allowed at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wrestling and football won’t be played during this calendar year. Both are classified as high risk sports and an 10-week alternative season for some wrestling and football competition has been cancelled. The CIAC’s Board of Control won’t allow wrestling or football to be held this spring so it doesn’t interfere with spring sports, which were all cancelled last year.
The beginning of the winter season was delayed in November thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about spreading the contagious disease.
Similar to what occurred in the fall, competition will be restricted to regional schools to limit the potential for spreading the coronavirus. Teams will play up to 12 regular season games with a post-season experience (March 15-28).
There will be no CIAC state tournaments this winter. The CIAC decided to give individual leagues enough time to host league tournaments. In the fall, the post-season experience was limited to additional games against the teams you had already played.
“The decision was made to cancel the CIAC winter championships to allow the leagues to have a full league championship tournament at the end of March as the leagues see fit,” said Glenn Lugarini, the executive director of the CIAC.
Avon High boys basketball coach Kris Pedra said his team is excited to get together and play. “It is certainly better than nothing,” Pedra said. “Twelve games is better than no games. This season is a moving target. The biggest challenge is we don’t know our schedule (yet). We don’t know who we play or on what date.”
In the fall, the Central Connecticut Conference split their 32 teams up by geography into four divisions with Avon playing with Farmington, Lewis Mills, Southington, New Britain, Plainville, Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern. The CCC hasn’t released their winter schedule, yet.
Avon went 13-9 a year ago, qualifying for the CCC tournament for the second time since joining the league in 2016. The Falcons won their first round Class L game with a victory over Bethel, 71-60, before the tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“You have to put this into perspective,” Pedra said. “It’s a global pandemic. Health and safety come first. We’re very lucky (to be playing).”
Canton High coach Brian Medeiros was pleasantly surprised and happy that approval was given to play the season.
“Whatever they give us we’ll be happy with it,” he said. “The girls are excited to get back on the floor with their friends and play. I am very appreciative that the powers that be made this work and give everyone a positive experience at the end of the day.”
Playing with a mask will be different.
“It will be a challenge in itself in terms of conditioning and getting up and down the floor,” Medeiros said. “Will we be playing up tempo. It will impact people for sure.“
The Warriors won the NCCC championship last winter and won two tournament games before their Class M quarterfinal game with Coginchaug was suspended at halftime due to a local power outage. The tournament was cancelled the next day ending the season.
“It will be a challenge and it will be difficult. If we last the entire two months, I will be happy,” he said.
Like last fall, Canton will playing in the NCCC West group with two games each against Granby, East Granby, SMSA, HMTCA and Windsor Locks .
The CIAC does not recommend fans attend the games but will leave those decisions up to local schools. The schools are also investigating options for games to be streamed so that parents, family members and fans can watch.
Avon will continue to participate in the Farmington Valley Generals co-op hockey program with Farmington, Windsor and Lewis Mills. Canton will begin a second season in the co-op program with Newington and Berlin.
In girls hockey, Avon will continue to host the co-op program with Southington and Lewis Mills. Canton will continue to be part of the Suffield girls co-op program.
The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association approved their winter plans last week and will allow the teams to begin practicing this week.
Teams will play 12 games with the regular season ending March 12. There won’t be a state tournament but a conference tournament will be played March 15-28.
Indoor track teams can begin practicing on Tuesday but they probably won’t compete until March if the weather co-operates and some outdoor events can be scheduled. The issue is large number of athletes competing at indoor meets inside. The indoor track season is virtually all large tournament events.
Boys swimming is limited to just dual meets and virtual meets are encouraged.
Wrestlers had hoped to compete during an alternative season that would have ended April 16. But wrestling and other sports classified as high risk, such as football, can’t even consider practicing until the winter season ends on March 28 thanks to an executive order from Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont in November.
“You’ve taken a lot of kid’s hopes, dreams and goals and have tossed them out the window,” a quiet Simsbury High coach T.J. Silva said. “A lot of goals and dreams were crushed today because they won’t get a chance to compete.”
Silva has 10 seniors on this team that had come in second in the Class L championships for the past two seasons, losing by a half point and 2½ points, respectively. This was going to be their year.
Silva, who is also an assistant on Simsbury High’s football team, understands the reality of the situation. He went through it with the football team in the fall. At this point, he would be happy to hold a practice.
“Football had passing leagues and lineman’s challenges,” he said. “It wasn’t ideal but (the kids) had 10-to-12 weeks together with their coaches and friends.”
DPH guidelines allow for conditioning workouts in small groups and non-contact drills – which could be a challenge in a contact sport like wrestling. Wrestling is classified as high risk by the state and the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS).