WESTFIELD – On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association voted in favor of holding four sports seasons, in effect, saving football from cancellation with a late winter start.
The MIAA approved recommendations from its COVID-19 Task Force that the high school sports year begin Sept. 18.
It was determined that the fall season, which includes soccer, gymnastics, cross country, field hockey, girls volleyball, and golf will be held from Sept. 18-Nov. 20. There will be no MIAA-sponsored postseason.
The winter season, which involves the sports of basketball, ice hockey, wrestling, indoor track and field, alpine skiing, winter cheer, dance, and swimming and diving, will be held Nov. 30-Feb. 21, 2021.
The Fall Sports II, or “floating season,” as it is being called by the MIAA, would allow for football and fall cheer, as well as unified basketball to be held from Feb. 22-April 25.
Football is currently deemed a high-risk sport, according to guidelines set forth by the governor’s office.
“It’s going to be tough to get the season started in February with inclement weather,” Westfield High School head football coach Rob Parent said, “but I am in favor of any option that allows (our football players) to play. …It won’t be the dog days of summer, but the dog days of winter.”
With the start of football being delayed until 2021, football coaches will now be able to remain in contact with their players until the season begins after the MIAA waived coach-player restrictions Wednesday for the upcoming high school sports year.
The spring sports calendar, which includes baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, boys volleyball, and outdoor track and field will run from April 26-July 3.
“As an Athletic Director we want to provide kids with a way to stay active and stay engaged as long as these guidelines are deemed safe for the students and the entire community,” Westfield High School athletic coordinator Ryan Dunphy said.
With four sport seasons, it is now a possibility that this may produce the city’s first four-sport athletes. While Parent, or any other state high school football coach, could conceivably coach a football player for several months now, the Bombers head football coach said he would push for his players to play multiple sports.
“I want my athletes to play as many sports as humanly possible,” said coach Parent, who was a four-sport athlete himself in high school, having played football, baseball, basketball, and track all during the same high school year. “Not only do you train your body differently, but each sport brings its own special social entity to it. Our student-athletes need to see all the different aspects (associated with each sport) … and see the good and bad of life.”
Parent said he will likely develop an offseason workout plan for those individuals who just play football.
“I want my athletes being athletes,” he said.
Now that the green light has been granted by the MIAA to go forth with a full sports calendar for the upcoming high school year, each sport’s respective committee will finalize modifications to their sport based on state guidelines regarding the coronavirus.
The three main sports that will be required to make major modifications to their sport this fall are soccer, field hockey and girls volleyball.
“If (the MIAA) is going to tell us we can play games if we make some modifications,” Dunphy said, “it is worth it for us. The most important part is getting the kids out there if it is safe.”
Member schools would have the ability to adjust the dates with approval from their respective district’s Athletic Committee, allowing some flexibility if certain schools can not play sports right away or have to postpone a season at some point due to outbreaks of the coronavirus within schools, teams, or the community at large.
The city’s School Committee will still need to grant their final approval, according to Dunphy. As with other decisions, they will likely seek guidance from Director of Public Health Joseph Rouse.
A vote from the School Committee is expected to take place Monday evening.
“Just like schools, we want to get everything back to normal as fast as we can,” Westfield School Committee member Bo Sullivan said. “We’re going to talk to the experts. If they say it’s safe to play sports, we are going to play sports.”