Published November 24, 2020
By JENNIFER GENTILE
WAKEFIELD—On Friday, Nov. 20, 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, paving the way for a 2020-21 winter high school sports season. Melrose’s High’s season will start on Dec. 14, although indoor track and wrestling will be moved to Fall 2 (Feb. 29) and spring, respectively.
The Middlesex League is currently able to provide seasons for girls’ and boys’ basketball, girls’ and boys’ hockey and gymnastics. Some schools may include swimming if the facilities are available.
There is a lot to weed through, so here are some Frequently Asked Questions about what a high school winter sports season would look like.
1. So if the schools close, will the sports stop?
Likely. Over the fall, some Middlesex League teams had to pause their seasons for two weeks if they were aware of a player testing positive for COVID-19. If a school closes because of unmanageable numbers of COVID-19 or through state orders, sports would very likely be paused via consultation with each town’s health director.
2. How many games will there be?
The schedule is being created now and practice/tryouts start Dec. 14. Most games will be played on Saturdays. There’s a chance that, in the Middlesex League, games will not be played until after the new year. The season runs until Feb. 21 so that allows about 8-10 games. Ideally, they’d play once a week (with two practices in the week) but given a short deadline there may some weeks with two games running. Expect an ever-changing schedule and some cancellations.
3. Who will we play?
It’s very likely Wakefield will only play Middlesex Freedom League opponents: Melrose, Burlington, Stoneham, Wilmington and Watertown. Should sports (such as gymnastics) opt for the virtual meet, there is a possibility of opening competition to the Middlesex Liberty (large) division: Reading, Woburn, Arlington, Belmont, Lexington, Winchester. Expect each competitor to be played twice in a row (two weeks straight) for contact tracing purposes. There will be no non-league games and tournament play is unlikely.
4. Wait, what’s a virtual meet?
Virtual meets are used in track, swim and gymnastics. Essentially, it means the two opponents never see each other and no travel is involved. In gymnastics, picture Melrose assigned a judge in their facility and Wakefield assigned a judge in their facility. The kids complete their routines. Scores are entered into a computer and a winner is (virtually) announced.
5. Will there be fans?
While it remains to be seen, don’t count on it. Over the fall, one parent/guardian per player was allowed entry into games in the Middlesex League. But that was outside. Inside? You may be looking at coaches, officials and media only. That is something the Middlesex League will be ironing out this week.
6. Will the games be filmed?
WCAT filmed home games at Landrigan Field this fall which included field hockey and boys’ soccer games. They have filmed basketball games in the past and while it is unclear at this time whether that will be permitted, there is no reason to believe that video, play call, or media will be barred from gymnasiums or rinks at this time. Some schools will be utilizing their student productions to film games. Melrose Athletic Director Steve Fogarty has indicated that Melrose High’s video production club will be filming basketball games to live stream when possible. Historically, hockey has also been filmed and broadcast either online or on MMTV. Gymnastic meets have also been taped in recent years with a YouTube link.
7. Will they really wrestle outside in the spring?
They will certainly try. It requires a lot of mats moving in and out of the gym, so competition could take place somewhere like the Shaun F. Beasley Track and Field. Odd, yes. But that’s 2020 for you.
8. Does this mean there will be football in the Fall 2 season?
The forecast looks good. Right now, football is slated to take place on Feb. 22., the start date of the MIAA’s “Fall 2” season (which could get bumped up.) Outside sports have proven to be safely run when adhering to social distancing measures and the MIAA modification guidelines.