By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
For the first time in more than a year, a high school sports season might be almost normal.
The CIAC on March 10 approved its first set of guidelines for spring sports as the COVID-19 pandemic inches toward a more manageable phase. The plans represent the closest return to a traditional high school sports season in Connecticut since the winter postseasons were canceled on March 10, 2020.
“Nothing about this is still normal, [but] it’s about 80 percent normal,” Woodland athletic director Chris Decker said. “We’ll still have to undergo the COVID safety precautions that we’ve used all year.”
There are several notable changes among the spring guidelines — most notably the plans to hold full state tournaments for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
The postseason in most sports is scheduled to begin June 1, with the final championships in most sports set for June 11-12. The Naugatuck Valley League plans on hosting its own championship tournaments with full schedules, too.
In addition, teams will be permitted to return to traditional regular-season schedules — up to 20 baseball and softball games, 20 tennis matches, and 16 meets in track and golf — without geographical limitations.
Mask rules will match those used in the fall. Active players will not have to wear face coverings in any sport except boys volleyball, which isn’t sponsored by the NVL. All players on the sidelines, as well as coaches, officials, game workers and spectators, will still have to wear masks, and players can still opt to wear masks during competition.
All other COVID protocols will also remain in effect, such as equipment sanitization, social distancing when possible and daily health checks.
“We are excited that we are going to have the opportunity to have a full ‘normal’ spring season,” said Naugatuck athletic director Brian Mariano, who added the preparation for the spring season will be the same as the fall and winter.
“Students are excited to have the chance to play a normal spring,” Mariano said. “Hopefully we can keep COVID exposure to a minimum and enjoy a full season.”
There are also some sport-specific guidelines. In baseball and softball, for example, each team will use its own set of balls that won’t be kept by the umpire, and close meetings on the mound may require masks for a minute. Forget about exchanging scorecards in golf, too.
Overall, though, the complexes at Naugatuck and Woodland should be as busy as ever this spring. Pitchers and catchers were allowed to start conditioning March 20, while practices for every other sport may begin March 27.
“They’re very excited,” Decker said of the Hawks’ athletes and coaches. “The coaches are very excited for a return to normalcy, and they’re just excited to have a season.”