With COVID-19 still out there and ever-so prevalent, Longmeadow High School sports programs are forced to adapt to a new set of safety guidelines the MIAA has released. Athletic Director, Michael Capotosto says, “If we want to have sports, we have to follow the guidelines that the MIAA has issued.” In an effort to coordinate with the coaching staff about these new rules, Mr. Capotosto has “been meeting with them to review each specific sport and talking about concerns.” There are a general set of guidelines that every sport has to follow, and for each individual sport, there are more specific regulations pertaining to the way that sport is played. “These guidelines were set by doctors and athletic directors,” says Mr. Capotosto. “There were about 23 people on the task force that created these rules, and they should be completely reachable although a lot of it is dependent on the student athletes.”
Some obvious guidelines for every sport include:
- Enforcing social distancing
- Wearing a mask when at practice and for most sports, during games
- Only essential personnel allowed on practice fields and at games
- The breakdown of team members into smaller groups to practice
- 50% locker room capacity
Along with these regulations, each sport has to adapt to COVID-19 in their respective manners.
Soccer: Soccer may have the most altered game rules of all the sports, as head balls, corner kicks, throw ins, slide tackles, and intentional contact are all restricted. Any violation of these will result in a free kick for the opposite team. Senior captain Brad Moccio believes that these regulations “totally change the way of playing the game to a point where it’s almost a totally different sport.”
“I think that we will see referees calling penalties on everyone, which ruins the flow of the game,” says Moccio. “However, we got a state championship to defend so my team and I are just excited to get back onto the field and play.”
Football: Unfortunately, the football season has been postponed until early February. However, Longmeadow’s football team still continues to train through this unusually long off-season.
“COVID actually gives us a great opportunity to teach the fundamentals of the game,” says new head football coach, Henry Large. “Instead of looking at this as some sort of difficulty or an obstacle to our success, we are looking at this as an opportunity to fine-tune our techniques and skills that are required to be a good football player.”
As of right now, the MIAA has not released any specifics on how games will be affected by COVID, but nevertheless, “We are preparing for being the best football team we could possibly be for February,” says Coach Large, hopeful of a winter season.
XC: XC is one of the only sports that remains the same after the regulations. Social distancing and wearing masks is required for warming up and cooling down after runs, and workout groups should consist of only 5-10 people. Regarding meets, staggered starts of 8-10 people is highly suggested and the course itself will need to be wide enough to accomodate runners.
As of right now, the largest change to XC is that the team aspect of the sport has been slightly affected, as you are only training with 2 or 3 people. Besides that, XC will have a relatively normal regular season (as there have been no plans for postseasons).
Volleyball: Volleyball is a very fast-paced and mental game, where the energy of players is essential for success. However this year, fan sections in the gym are prohibited, leaving the players on the bench as the only spectators. Senior Bella Costello explains, “With a point being scored after every serve is played out, volleyball is a very mental game. We usually have a crowd to keep our energy up, but with the new ‘no spectators’ rule, the energy will most likely change.”
In addition, there will be a new 3-foot line on either side of the net to reduce contact with the players on the opposing team. Players are prohibited from entering that area, which reduces the number of front-row attacks that can be made resulting in players having to rely on back-attacks.
Golf: Aside from XC, golf is the other sport that the rules remain relatively unchanged. Besides being mindful of social distancing and sanitation, the regular season will continue in the same fashion as previous years. As of right now, and this applies to every sport, there is no postseason for Golf which also entails no matches being held against Central/Eastern Massachusetts teams.
Field hockey: Field Hockey is the only sport that sees a mandatory reduction in the amount of players allowed in a game; the 11vs.11 game has been altered to 7vs.7. Additionally, short penalty corners, which is when a violation by the defending team occurs, have effectively been eliminated.
Coach Ann Simons believes these rules are “definitely going to open up the field and it’s going to be a fast-paced game.” However, through overtime in tournaments as well as in practices, the Longmeadow field hockey team is “very familiar with the way to handle 7vs.7,” explains Coach Simons.
Regarding practices, “Everything is pretty much the same,” says Coach Simons. “Things have been going pretty smoothly and the athletes are listening very well to the things they need to do with the masks and social distancing so I’m happy.”
Cheerleading: Similar to football, the cheerleading season has been moved to the winter until further notice. As of right now, the cheerleaders are practicing routines and working on their foundations in preparation for the eventual season.
With these new rules, student athletes and coaching staff are fully prepared to adapt just to have a season where they can compete. To make that happen, Mr. Capotosto explains, ““Everyone has a role in this: parents, community members, administration, and most importantly, the student athletes.”