Wrestling, indoor track moved to different seasons

Published in the November 23, 2020 edition.


The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Directors voted on winter sports recommendations and sport specific modifications provided by the MIAA’s COVID-19 Task Force on Friday. 

The board voted to push the start date of the winter season to Dec. 14. The original winter start date was set for Nov. 30. 

Another major decision involved the postponement of winter sports, indoor track, wrestling, competitive cheerleading and dance. Indoor track will be moved to the Fall 2 season which is projected to start on Feb. 22 though that may be pushed back as well. Wrestling, cheerleading and dance will move to the spring season. 

The board voted on modifications for basketball, hockey, gymnastics and swimming which are all projected to have a winter sports season in the Middlesex League. Every sport will face challenges, perhaps none more than swimming which has a limited number of facilities in the area. 

These state modifications were created through a two-week MIAA governance process which included sport-specific sub-committee meetings where updated Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and current Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidelines were reviewed. These subcommittees created sport specific modifications and presented them to the full committees for approval. The MIAA Sports Medicine Committee  and ultimately the MIAA COVID-19 Task Force subsequently approved the modifications.

Universal modifications for all winter sports include face coverings/masks for athletes, coaches, referees and spectators, no handshakes or high fives and maintaining six feet of social distancing during practice and team meetings. 

The following are examples of approved modifications for winter sports:

Basketball: Modifications for basketball include the elimination of halftime as the length of time between quarters will be extended an extra 2:30; no on-court huddling or hand touching such as high fives; a game day roster with a maximum of 15 players and no more than three coaches and 18 total individuals allowed on the bench; no more jump balls as a coin toss will determine who gets the ball to start the game; free throw lanes limited to four players during free throws with players only allowed to enter the lanes prior to the final attempt; no under the basket out of bounds plays as those will be inbounded at the foul line extended. 

Points of emphasis for referees will include the five second rule in which a closely guarded player holds the ball for five seconds; extra enforcement on the rule that defenders will not physically impede the progress of offensive players and letting the ref know when you want to foul at the end of a game to avoid unnecessary contact. 

Hockey: Modifications for hockey include social distancing on face-offs until the referees call in participants for the puck drop; only one defensive and offensive player permitted in any scrum along the boards – a third will cause an immediate stoppage of play; officials can stop play if a scrum in any area of the ice is prolonged greater than five seconds; only one person allowed in the penalty box at a time; a limit of 20 total players per team; no more than three coaches and one athletic trainer on the bench; to allow for six feet of social distancing, teams must develop additional areas beyond the provided team bench for players to spread out for water breaks. 

Gymnastics: Modifications for gymnastics include the option for schools to opt for remote meets with only dual meet competitions; masks worn by all non-competing athletes while maintaining six feet of distance; the use of hand sanitizer prior to and after competing in an event. 

Swimming: Modifications for swimming include only dual meet in-person competitions; masks worn by all – swimmers can un-mask as they step onto the starting block and masks will be place in a plastic bag and be available at the point of exit after the race; no cheering on the pool deck; relay swimmers will be spaced 3-6 feet apart from each other behind their respective lanes. 

Middlesex League officials are expected to discuss the MIAA’s modifications this week. They will then announce any changes or additional modifications. Winter state tournaments have already been cancelled. Leagues have the choice of holding their own postseason tournaments for the winter season.