Note: the information and quotes in this story do not all reflect today’s decision by the state to close schools until May. We will provide updates.
In an attempt to slow the spread of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, schools in Massachusetts have closed for the next three weeks to help practice social distancing and flatten the curve of cases. However, this spells bad news for student-athletes, who were scheduled to start their spring sports seasons during the first week of the break.
Initially, according to an email sent out to students by Mount Greylock Athletic Director Lindsay von Holtz, the spring season was pushed back two weeks with a start date of Monday, March 30th. Contests would have been able to begin on April 9th as a first possible date.
However, after Governor Charlie Baker announced that state schools would close for three weeks, the MIAA met once more to take further steps to push back the spring season. The initial start date was decided to be April 27th at the earliest. They have voted to have the completion of the regular season and tournament games by June 20th at the latest. However, since this decision Baker announced that schools would be closed until May 4. The MIAA has not announced how this development will impact the spring sports season.
According to last week’s rules, the first competition would not be allowed to occur until the seventh calendar day after the start of the 2020 spring season, meaning games or meets could not start until May 4th at the earliest. The maximum number of competitions allowed is 12 and the minimum number needed to participate in the tournament is 8 before the June 10th cut off date. Teams will not be allowed to play more than 3 contests per week. If the start date is postponed for any amount of time beyond April 27th, there will not be a postseason tournament.
In a letter to the student body, von Holtz said, “this, as well as the closure of school, was based on available information from numerous health agencies, in the best interest of our students, staff, and communities.” She also added that “It is important for athletes and families to understand that with the adjusted start date, we are currently out-of-season.” Coaches are not allowed to have any contact with returning or prospective players person-to-person, and the school is not allowing any students or coaches on campus as well to use any facilities. Von Holtz also said that “there should be no formal or informal team activities. A reminder that “Captain’s Practices” are against MIAA rules and not sanctioned or condoned by Mount Greylock.”
Despite the season postponement, students and coaches alike are finding ways to stay positive. Girls lacrosse coach Jeff Stripp reached out to his players, saying, “first and foremost, I encourage you to stay safe, stay strong and stay connected.” Coaches are emphasizing the importance of staying positive, while also stressing the importance of keeping a good routine, a healthy diet, and ample exercise to remain on track physically for whenever the season starts. Above all, coaches want their athletes to lean on each other during this difficult and confusing time. “When the future is uncertain-we need to rely on each other for support,” Stripp said.
The student-athletes have mixed emotions regarding the postponement. While there is a fair share of disappointment, many athletes said they understand the precautions the MIAA is taking. Emma Sandstrom, a sophomore on Mount Greylock’s track and field team, said, “I think that even though it’s unfortunate, especially for the seniors, it was the right choice. If we were to continue playing sports, that would put a lot of people at risk given the current situation and especially with travel games, I think it would have been too risky. I’m bummed to not get a full track season, but I think all in all it was their best bet.” Many students have been keeping themselves in shape and entertained during this time with online fitness regimens, while also taking inspiration from others posting videos of themselves. Sophomore track and field athlete Kate Swann said that “I also think that it is difficult to motivate yourself to work out when you are alone and there aren’t people by your side to push you, but, again I think it is the right decision that we keep our distance. I have seen some fun ways that people have been staying connected through sports like virtual track meets where people find ways to do their events around the house, which always puts a smile on my face.”
Many athletes are also focused on the impact this postponement will have on the seniors. Senior girls lacrosse captain Brooke Phelps said, “when I first read the letter to the student-athletes, I was devastated. I, along with my teammates, have been working so hard in this offseason. I understand why they did it though. I know how scary this whole thing is. I know that many people are dying and they did what they had to do to keep everyone safe. We have to sacrifice our season for the safety of others. I love my team and I hope I get to have a last season with them.”
A lot of the underclassmen have spoken up in support of their beloved seniors. Freshman track and field athlete Jane Skavlem said, “I feel particularly bad for the seniors missing the last season of their high school career.” Freshman lacrosse player Ainsley Abel echoed Skavlem’s sentiments, saying, “the seniors should get to play their senior season.”
“Track is a big part of my life and something that I will continue to do as I attend college this coming year,” senior Maddie Ross said. “This team is what built me into not only the athlete I am today but also the person I am today.”
Other athletes mentioned that while they understood the need for safety, they didn’t see the point in having such a big push back in the start date seeing as students could be back in school far before the revised start date if all goes as planned.
“I think there is a greater chance of spreading the virus by being in school than playing limited contact sports like girls lacrosse and baseball, but I get how the MIAA is taking the precautions and trying to limit any contact with large groups of people,” junior Carolyn Jones said. “I also believe they are following the lead of the NCAA and all of the colleges that cut their seasons and semesters short to prevent further spread.”
Anthony Welch, a sophomore baseball player, felt similar to Jones. Welch said, “of course as long as school is out sports should be as well, but the MIAA has moved the date back too far. I think the right decision would have been that as soon as schools come back into session we should have been practicing so that we could play as soon and as long as possible.”