COVID-19 Ushers In New Era For High School Sports

By: Kat Szmit

Topics: School Sports , Monomoy Regional School District , Education , Monomoy Regional High School , Monomoy Regional Middle School , Sports , Nauset Regional School District , Nauset Regional High School , Nauset High School

Soccer is one of four sports that will be allowed this fall at Monomoy and Nauset Regional High Schools, though with many changes to accommodate COVID-19 protocol. A list of Monomoy’s rules can be found on the school website, monomoy.edu. File Photo

Education isn’t the only thing that’s gotten a makeover due to COVID-19. So too have high school and middle school sports in the Monomoy and Nauset regional school districts. While athletics will take place, it will be in a very new way with a number of new rules that include not only players and coaches, but spectators, as well.

Under the Monomoy plan, which follows guidelines set forth by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), only four sports will be played this fall: field hockey, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, and boys golf. Football, fall cheerleading, and volleyball will be moved to the “Fall II” season, which begins at the end of February.

The rules pertaining to the Fall I season, which begins Sept. 18 with practices and tryouts, are many, apply to overall athletics and individual sports and take into consideration everything from locker rooms (closed) to mask wearing (a must for everyone).

MRHS Athletic Director Karen Guillemette said coaches underwent training for the upcoming season on Sept. 9.

“I think we have a really good plan,” she said. “Everybody’s on board.”

With regard to spectators, only 50 fans from the home team community will be allowed to watch home games only in keeping with EEA rules. No visiting team spectators will be admitted to Monomoy home games, and all spectators must comply with mask wearing and social distancing protocol. A staff member designated by the AD will be hired to monitor spectators, gather information for contact tracing, and oversee the event.

“We want our parents to be able to enjoy seeing their student athletes play,” Guillemette said.

Along with the overall rules come those that pertain directly to each respective sport. In field hockey, competitions will be 7-on-7, versus the traditional 11. Cross country is encouraged to use a course that lends itself well to social distancing.

Soccer will be played in four quarters, and masks must be worn unless a player is getting water or is at least 10 feet from another player. Failure to follow mask protocol could result in an indirect free kick for the opposing team and a yellow card for the player in violation. Heading the ball will not be allowed. If a player intentionally heads the ball it will result in an indirect free kick for the opposing team. Slide tackles and intentional body contact are also prohibited.

“I feel that our players and coaches are excited by the prospect of a season and this will motivate everyone to follow the COVID protocol about masks and distancing,” said Monomoy girls head coach Jenn Peterson. “The challenge will be to figure out how to coach and play with the new rules in effect. Specifically, the rules about contact and having to be six feet apart on restarts changes strategies and goes against what these players have been taught since they were little. We are up for the challenge though!”

Guillemette said that between the lengthy list of rules and guidelines and the late start to the season, creating schedules has been difficult.

“We typically schedule things months in advance, so we had a fall season schedule that had been done since the spring,” she said. “Now we’re trying to kind of rework that.”

Guillemette credited the secretary of the Cape and Islands League, Bob Haff, for his tireless efforts in helping craft workable schedules. To further reduce the risk of exposure, Cape and Islands League teams will only play other league teams, with games set to begin at the end of September and the beginning of October.

A hurdle has been transportation. Regarding away games, Guillemette told the Monomoy school committee at its Sept. 10 meeting that students with licenses, and/or their parents are being asked to drive to away games since there are restrictions on how many students can ride a bus at one time.

At Nauset, the rules and guidelines are similar, and they, too, are going with a Fall I season with only cross country, soccer, boys golf, and field hockey, with football and volleyball slated for Fall II. Athletic Director John Mattson said he was similarly challenged when it came to scheduling games.

“It has been very challenging to create schedules for the fall season, especially with things changing so abruptly,” he said. “We have had to be extremely flexible in order to accommodate these changes, which seem to happen every day. Ultimately, we are excited to have a plan in place to offer some sports at Nauset this fall.”

Also, in keeping with the EEA, MIAA and Cape and Islands League protocols, only home team fans will be allowed at home games, which Mattson said will keep the number of people in attendance low.

The kids, however, are fine with rules so long as they get to play.

“I think they know it’s going to be different and could be challenging to play under different rules and modifications, but they’re athletes. They’re resilient,” Guillemette said. “They’ll get through it and they’ll be fine.”

Monomoy senior and field hockey goalie Caitlin Bouvier said the rules don’t bother her.

“I’m just so beyond excited to get in my last season with Monomoy, and I can’t wait to see what this season brings,” she said. “Even though there are so many changes, I’m perfectly fine with that.”

The 7-on-7 will allow more exciting game play, Bouvier added.

While fall will seem relatively familiar once sports get going, the difference will be the absence of football, which will instead start near the end of February during the Fall II season. Monomoy senior captain Justin Sneed said he thinks the team will face it similarly to any other season.

“I am certainly thankful we’re making guidelines and putting time into preparing this,” he said. “In terms of motivation, I think we’ll be working hard together for a good while, and that forms a strong bond.”

When questioned about the possibility of inclement weather, Guillemette offered a reminder about the unpredictability of November.

“Two years ago on Thanksgiving was one of the coldest days ever and they played,” she said. “I don’t foresee it being all that much different weather-wise from the fall.”

At MRMS, one of the few area schools still offering interscholastic middle school sports, there will be a shift to intramurals, to begin in October, which will include golf, soccer, field hockey and a running club, all following EEA guidelines and with limited numbers.

Prior to each sports season both at MRHS and MRMS the status of interscholastic sports will be reevaluated based on current data and guidance. Should schools need to shift to fully remote learning, all sports will be suspended for that time period.

“If we’re at a heightened COVID place, it doesn’t make sense in my opinion for us to continue sports and potentially risk seeing things shut down more globally,” said Superintendent Dr. Scott Carpenter. “We have to protect ourselves and protect others. I hope our athletes and spectators keep that in mind.”

At Cape Cod Tech, all fall sports have been postponed to the Fall II season per a Mayflower League decision.