Uncertainty shrouds fall sports season

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By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

Student-athletes look on as CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini speaks during a forum Aug. 20 at CIAC headquarters in Cheshire. Student-athletes gathered to express their concerns about the uncertainty of any sports being played during the fall season. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

With perhaps the most uncertain school year ever immediately on the horizon, many local student-athletes are still waiting to find out whether their fall seasons will see daylight.

The CIAC released a plan earlier this summer that called for delayed, shortened seasons that would allow all traditional fall sports to happen with geographically based schedules and several precautionary phases. That decision elicited mixed reactions, but was generally applauded for giving the hope of a season among the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another wrench was thrown into the plans Aug. 13 when the Connecticut Department of Public Health sent a letter to the CIAC with recommendations including a postponement of football and volleyball to the spring.

Representatives from both the CIAC and the DPH met Thursday to discuss the recommendations, but the CIAC did not take any official action that evening. Following a meeting of the ReOpen CT Rules Committee Friday morning, the CIAC released a statement saying it has requested that the DPH consider allowing schools to resume non-contact conditioning workouts, as early as Monday.

The CIAC Board of Control is scheduled to meet again Sunday. The board will submit modified fall sport plan options to the DPH for consideration, the statement said. The CIAC delayed the first date for all fall sports to Aug. 29.

“This timeline will allow the DPH adequate time to consider CIAC’s revised fall sports plans, which it will submit early next week, and athletic directors the time necessary to begin a sports season. The CIAC will update member schools on the return to conditioning workouts as soon as more information becomes available,” the CIAC said in a statement.

Also on Thursday student-athletes held another rally at CIAC headquarters to communicate with CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini the importance of proceeding with fall sports.

About 50 athletes, mostly from Southington, Lewis Mills and St. Paul, gathered to express their concerns about the effect a fall sports cancelation might have on the mental and physical health of student-athletes, as well as scholarship opportunities and academic performance.

“We can’t allow COVID to take from us the positive impact that sports will have on kids’ lives,” Lungarini said. “We’ll see what the answer is. Understanding that, at the end of the day we’re going to take the recommendations that DPH gives us under strong consideration. But ultimately, we want to give kids great experiences. We don’t want to put our superintendents and boards in difficult positions. At the same time, we want our decisions to be centered on our students and do the best we can to provide them with experiences.”

Football activities were previously slated to begin this week.

Earlier in August, the CIAC released the geographically adjusted divisions for which fall sports would be played. Woodland will compete in the NVL South in all fall sports, while Naugatuck will join the Hawks in football, girls soccer and girls swimming. In boys soccer, cross country, and girls volleyball, the Greyhounds will compete in the NVL North. In most sports, the NVL South also includes Seymour, Oxford, Ansonia and Derby, while the NVL North mostly includes Torrington, Wolcott, St. Paul and Watertown.

Some school districts have taken away the suspense of waiting for the CIAC to make further decisions about fall sports. Bridgeport has canceled its fall sports, while New Haven’s fall sports are suspended until further notice. Nonnewaug also announced Tuesday that it would postpone all its fall sports after consulting with the DPH and two regional health districts.

“The stars were aligned telling us, ‘Don’t do it,’ and as much as I love sports, I am not comfortable saying it would be a good idea for us to continue sports in this manner,” Region 14 superintendent Joseph Olzacki said. “Why would we want to put our kids in harm’s way? Also, we have many parents and grandparents that live together. The kids bring COVID home, we could possibly lose a generation.”

Region 14 will revisit its sports decisions after Jan. 1, 2021.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.