Sports are returning to our campus this fall – in a very different fashion.
“It’s different in which we have to follow different rules governed by the state of Massachusetts and that’s all about student-athletes safety and community safety,” said Meirion George, head coach of MacDuffie Boy’s Soccer teams.
While being asked about whether or not there will be any interscholastic events this season, coaches remain optimistic. Although NEPSAC is canceling all leagues and championships this fall in Massachusetts due to the risk of COVID-19, schools are allowed to arrange scrimmages with modified rules that satisfy the health guidelines. MacDuffie and a few other schools are interested in pursuing these events while also keeping their athletes safe.
“I would like MacDuffie to be included in those conversations and if we can continue in this positive direction, I can definitely see us entertain some scrimmages sometime during the fall season,” George claimed. However, in these uncertain times, it depends much on other schools’ guidelines and how they are keeping their student-athletes safe to compete with us and vice versa.
MacDuffie’s guidelines consist of players wearing masks when they are on the field practicing or running and maintaining a 6 feet distance between each other. No bottles of water, cleats, or shirts are allowed to be shared between players, and coaches provide their student-athletes with hand sanitizer after every practice.
“It’s very uncomfortable to wear a mask while practicing. However, if that keeps us safe and allows us to play, I have no problem wearing it,” M Dang, a member of the Boy’s Soccer team, said. Although the strict mask mandate remains controversial, most fall students-athletes cooperate with the policy. There were little to no recorded violations of the safety policies during the practices.
During these difficult times, coaches encounter numerous challenges about enforcing COVID guidelines while also preserving the intensity and the quality of every practice. Kevin Hillman, MacDuffie Cross Country head coach, said: “There’s definitely a lot of yelling since there’s a lot more distance to cover. Masks are tough especially because when we have to give announcements, we all have to be in the same area.”
Volleyball also encountered similar challenges where they have to relocate practices outside the gym. “It’s challenging from a coaching perspective since I never have to design drills for situations like this before where we have to do it without a net or with a group of 2 or more people,” said Ethan Cutler, MacDuffie Volleyball head coach.
Students-athletes were very excited about the return of sports this fall. Some of these excitements might lead to undermining COVID regulations since high-fives and hugs are the indispensable factors of sports. However, fall sports coaches are putting their best effort to enforce the guidelines and gradually move onto stages where more interactions are allowed.
For Soccer, each individual has to wear a mask at all times, assigned to a separate cone, and have limited interactions with others for the first two weeks of practice. As the season progresses, George allows groups of six to interact with each other every week.
“If we do have any health concerns, then we are not affecting the whole team but the small group so that we can track it down,” Meirion mentioned.
The Volleyball team is also separating their players into groups of two to keep minimal hand-to-hand interaction, whereas the Cross-country team always maintains a 6ft distance between their members while running.
Despite the uncertainty ahead, the student-athletes’ health and safety remain the top priority for the athletic program this fall season.