The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced Friday that fall sports competition will not begin until September 24 and will last just six weeks.
“There were two key factors at play in pushing back the start date for games,” said Glenn Lungarini, the executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. “We wanted our schools to have the best chance to get back in-person or hybrid and the recommendations from our doctors and athletic trainers was that it is important to have a prescribed build-up of training since the students haven’t had any structured activity for six months.”
In other words, the delay in the fall season will give schools the opportunity to work out the kinks in their COVID precautions before introducing sports and will allow students more time to gradually build physical fitness before the season begins.
This is important, especially for schools that choose to begin using a hybrid model and may only be able to have half of their athletes present on any given day of practice depending on how the school chooses to proceed with after school activities.
In contrast to an earlier draft plan released by the conference, when the goal was proceed with the normal leagues, the finalized plan organizes schools to compete within a region.
“All the games will be regionally-based,” Lungarini said. “Many of our commissioners are already thinking along these lines as we look at independent schools and conferences that are spread out through the state in order to rearrange schedules.”
Because opening and closing schools will be guided in part by county-level cases of COVID infections, organizing competitions between schools within the same geographic region will provide best opportunity to complete an entire season, say officials.
At the end of October — depending on case data and recommendations from the Department of Public Health — the conference plans to hold a two-week post-season tournament restricted to regional play.
“Our focus is to maximize play for the kids, but it’s not a return to normal,” Lungarini said.
Finishing the season early will also maximize the opportunity for student athletesvto participate in senior nights, homecoming games and the other end-of-school activities largely missed in the spring 2020 season.
“As we talked to kids about the season, what they missed most was those closure activities, we want to make sure they have those this time around,” Lungarini said. “Even under great metrics right now, there is a big unknown when you get to the start of flu season.”
With fall pre-season practices just a few weeks away, Lungarini said the focus is now shifting to planning for the winter season.
“Winter is going to be even more challenging to predict. It is easier to manage outdoor sports,” he said. Sports like indoor track and wrestling that typically draw huge crowds at just a handful of state facilities may not be possible – or will at least look very different – if COVID-19 continues to be a threat come December.