Fall interscholastic sports return to Bedford High School next week.
But like everything else, this year is different.
Keith Mangan, BHS director of athletics, said varsity golf, girls’ and boys’ cross-country, girls’ and boys’ soccer, and field hockey teams have been practicing and will compete against other Dual County League Small Schools Division opponents on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (Golf games are off-site so they are on other days as well.)
Mangan stressed that everyone realizes this scenario is not normal. “We are trying to get kids out of their homes, playing and competing. We are trying to meet their social-emotional needs. And we’ve got kids who are just happy to be here.” Mangan acknowledged that there are some student-athletes who have opted not to play this season.
There will be many changes in rules and practices, some of them dramatic, as directed by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. Players, coaches, and officials are wearing masks all the time except for designated breaks.
Here are some other highlights:
- Soccer players aren’t allowed to intentionally head the ball; place hands or intentionally make contact on any part of an opposing team member’s body, or to slide tackle, or even attempt one. Also, “the use of a traditional defensive ‘wall’ is not permitted on any restart. Players may attempt to impede the path of the ball to the goal by standing in the way but they must be at least 10 yards away from the ball and at least six feet away from other players.
- Players who approach a referee to complain or argue will be penalized.
- In cross-country meets, staggered starts in smaller groups are required; runners are to be spaced out six feet apart individually; 14 feet spacing between schools. Spacing time will be determined by size of the course to maintain social distancing, and runners should maintain social distancing throughout the race and not cluster on the course.
- Field hockey games are limited to seven players per side on the field, including a goalie. There are no penalty corners; all players must be five yards away on free hits.
- Single tee starts in golf should be staggered, at a minimum of 10 minutes between groups to support social distancing.in gold matches. Social distancing must be maintained throughout the round.
There are also detailed regulations on warmups and other pre-game and post-game activities. For example, in a soccer match, team benches must be set up to ensure social distancing on the sidelines – and thus “teams may end up having players stretched out far down the sidelines”.
If you want to watch any of those contests from the stands or the sidelines, you are out of luck. “We only allow 25 people per team to watch an event,” Mangan said, and they must wear lanyards for easy identification. “We only allow one family member per athlete to come to a game, home or away.” Mangan is trying to work out arrangements for taping or steaming with Bedford TV.
“Each kid will be given a lanyard and we have a spreadsheet for each team in case we have to do some tracing,” he said.
There will be no post-season play beyond some kind of tournament within the division, the athletic director said. Besides Bedford, the other high schools in DCL Small are Cambridge, Waltham, Wayland, and Weston, as well as Boston Latin in golf and cross-country. There will also be some crossover matches in field hockey and soccer versus Westford Academy.
Two traditionally fall sports have been moved to a new window of play scheduled to begin in late February if the impact of the virus is mitigated by that time. Volleyball was postponed because it is the only fall sport played indoors. Football players are now training together several times a week, as they would during a normal off-season, Mangan said.
At John Glenn Middle School, there are no interscholastic sports this fall. But there are intramurals, Mangan said. “It was important that we provide something.”
“We should hear by the end of next month what the restrictions are for the winter,” Mangan said, as MIAA committees are starting to meet on these issues.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com, or 781-983-1763
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