Wakefield’s fall coaches give advice to winter coaches

Published December 9, 2020

WAKEFIELD HIGH’s fall teams learned how difficult it is to navigate sports in a pandemic. Coaches like the pictured Steph Martin of the girls’ soccer team have some advice to help winter sports coaches through the season. (Dan Pawlowski File Photo)


WAKEFIELD — If you like stories just for one moral, maybe the the fall sports high school season wasn’t for you. 

That’s because trying to play sports in a pandemic is anything but neat and tidy, especially without any previous advice or experience for getting through it. 

As Wakefield’s winter sports coaches prepare for a season starting with practice and tryouts on Monday, facing challenges both similar and brand new, they have something fall leaders didn’t: a heads-up.

“Provide as much normalcy as possible, practice each time as if it is your last practice, play each game as if it is your last, have fun and practice/preach social distancing each day,” said Wakefield field hockey head coach Cara Luca when asked what her advice for winter coaches would be. “You never know what the next day will bring.”

Normalcy. That has to be the moral of the fall sports story, right? A soccer game with no throw-ins or headers, 7-on-7 field hockey, distance runners gutting out a home stretch with masks on – seeking normalcy amongst all these changes felt like an immediate priority this fall. 

The concept of high school sports never changes. It’s about growing as a group, being there for each other and accomplishing goals. 

Yet, when people say sports in a pandemic is complicated, they mean it. 

It doesn’t just require the full effort of social distancing, wearing a mask and being responsible from everybody to players, coaches, referees and fans. That’s only part of it (the most important part). The other part is realizing that even if you fully commit to that responsibility as a team, things can and will change at the drop of a very heavy hat. 

“Expect the unexpected and be flexible.”

That’s the advice from boys’ cross country head coach Perry Pappas. That has to be the moral of the story.

“I would advise coaches to not really have any expectations,” said Warrior golf coach Chris Keane. “This was the most difficult part for me as a coach. I think good coaches are great at goal setting, but long term and short term – it’s what you base your seasons around. With the current climate, it’s hard to do that.”

Season goals are something winter coaches have had the advantage of considering for quite some time as they watched fall sports compete. With no state tournament, it’s not so much about wins and losses anymore. It’s about providing a desperately needed outlet. 

“I would advise all coaches to always be available to talk to the team about any anxieties or other issues they might be feeling,” said girls’ cross country head coach Karen Barrett, who also stressed the importance of following COVID protocol and keeping the team informed. 

And here we find another moral: fall sports provided an immeasurable amount of physical and mental health and well-being for student athletes. That right there quells any logistical headache. Playing a sport you love with lifelong friends – that’s worth fighting for.

“I think we will come away from this experience with a greater appreciation for being a part of a team and how important it is to have that support system when trying to work towards individual and team goals,” said Pappas.

“You need to just take things a day, and sometimes hours, at a time and appreciate the opportunity to help kids improve at what they love doing,” said Keane. “Understand that any game or any practice could potentially be the last one and make the experience as positive and impactful for the kids as possible.”

Which brings us to our last moral of the fall sports story: so what if the season isn’t perfect? 

“Be thankful to have a season, no matter what it looks like,” said girls’ soccer head coach Steph Martin. “It’s vital that these kids are engaged in sports to help them mentally. Most everything else as they know it right now is different and challenging but to have the opportunity to be together as a team to compete and have fun is such a gift.”