Many details remain up in the air for high school sports this school year, but some things are already clear: there will be no Thanksgiving Day football game and no field hockey state championship for Watertown this year.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a great impact on Massachusetts high school sports, particularly on the fall season, which will have no state tournaments in 2020 (tourneys in other seasons have not been decided yet). Also, the football season will be delayed until early 2021.
The MIAA announced those and other details about high school sports last week. Football and cheerleading will be delayed until what is being dubbed “Fall II,” which is expected to take place from late February to late April.
Watertown Athletic Director Ryan Murphy said that starting football in February could have its challenges.
“It’s definitely not ideal, but if it’s the only way to give student athletes a chance to play their sport we will do our best to give them the best experience,” Murphy said. “It is definitely cold in February.”
The other fall sports — boys and girls soccer, field hockey, boys and girls cross country, girls volleyball, boys golf and boys swimming — will begin practicing in late September and will run to Nov. 20.
“If all goes well, we will look to start sports on Sept. 21,” Murphy said.
The first games would take place a couple weeks later.
“The MIAA requires schools have to have 14 days of practice, so the first day we could have contests would probably be Oct. 3,” Murphy said. “It could be a little sooner for golf. They only make it 7 days (of practice) for them. We will try to start golf as soon as possible. Light goes away so fast in October.”
The sports that play this fall will not have a full schedule.
“We will look to play from 6 to 12 games, depending on what we think is safest,” Murphy said.
For the 2020-21 season, students will be able to play four sports, instead of the usual three, Murphy said.
The other seasons will also be adjusted under the MIAA’s plan. Winter sports (boys and girls basketball, boys and girls hockey, wrestling, boys and girls indoor track, boys swimming and cheerleading), would be played from Nov. 30 to Feb. 21. Fall II (football and cheerleading) runs from Feb. 22 to April 25. The spring season will run later than normal. Those sports (baseball, softball, boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls outdoor track and boys and girls tennis) will play from April 26 to July 3.
During typical years, the fall season runs from late August to late November, the winter season goes from late November to mid-March and the spring goes from late-March to mid-June.
Some adjustments will be made to sports to reduce contact between athletes. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) is due to release the sports modifications guidelines on Sept. 1, Murphy said.
Murphy said the Middlesex League is working out details for its schools.
“We met Monday and Tuesday and made what I would say is good progress,” Murphy said.
The next step is for the superintendents of the Middlesex League schools to meet and come up with their recommendations.
“Once the superintendents come back to the league, the superintendents and the athletic directors will make a recommendation together,” Murphy said.
When the league’s recommendations are made, the Watertown School Committee’s Athletic Subcommittee will meet on Sept. 2, and they will make a presentation to the School Committee later that month.