Newtown Prepping For Fall Sports Under New CIAC Guidelines
Newtown is readying for sports to begin again, following the release of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s (CIAC) 2020-21 Fall Sports Plan.
Matt Memoli, Newtown’s athletic director, said the district will be using the newly released CIAC fall plans when preparing its fall procedures.
“They did a phenomenal job of putting together a well-thought-out plan,” Memoli said in a recent phone interview.
The CIAC’s plan was released on July 31. By August 3, Memoli said Newtown’s tryout dates were being determined and were expected to be posted to the Newtown High School’s Athletic Department’s website, nighthawksports.com, within the week, along with more specific information.
The first day of football and cheerleading practice is set to be August 17. According to Memoli, all teams are expected to begin practicing by August 27.
The CIAC announced that it had worked with “a multitude of stakeholders since the decision to stop interscholastic athletics this past March,” and it has maintained since then that when the time is right, Connecticut will play again.”
Health metrics and the playing of youth sports in the state since June 20, “support the return to in-person instruction, education-based interscholastic athletics, and other co-curricular activities that are critical to the cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and mental health of our students.”
The CIAC emphasized in the document that the plan is fluid and will be in a “perpetual state of evaluation” as COVID-19 health metrics in Connecticut continue to be monitored.
“The appropriateness of holding youth sport and/or interscholastic athletic contests can change at any time,” the plan reads. “The CIAC will continue to consult with our stakeholders and will adjust offerings as appropriate, including the stop of interscholastic athletics, should the health metrics direct that action.
“If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the school/district must be notified immediately and [the local department of health] must be contacted,” the guide states. “The local [department of health] will direct the appropriate process. The CIAC will continue to work with local districts and [departments of health] to define the process as more information becomes available.”
Some of the guidelines in the plan share that students must practice in a cohort of no more than 15 students, determined to be “a reasonable number of student-athletes for coaches to work conditioning and skill progressions with while schools return to in-person instruction,” and that all contests will be scheduled regionally to limit transportation and maintain play in a geographic region.
The CIAC expects to provide further details on individual sport mitigating strategies later.
Other considerations outlined in the plan include:
*Having each school district determine how the athletic fields will be used throughout the school year and the appropriateness of spectators and fan attendance.
*During practices and conditioning, having athletes remain grouped in smaller cohorts.
*Adequate cleaning schedules for athletic facilities.
*Self-screening for any observable illness by all staff and students.
*Hand-washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or the use of hand sanitizer.
*Having all students bring a water bottle and food not to be shared.
*Wiping down weight equipment before and after each use.
*Using locker rooms as little as possible.
*Schools “must consider social distancing requirements” when scheduling transportation for fall contests.
With regard to face coverings, the CIAC plan says cloth or disposable face coverings should be worn when not engaging in vigorous activity; face coverings should not be worn when engaging in high intensity aerobic or anaerobic workouts, distance running, or swimming; plastic shields covering the entire face must be approved by CIAC; officials should wear face coverings whenever possible; and coaches and contest personnel must wear cloth face coverings.
More Local Plans
Locally, Memoli said he expects a virtual meet for parents and students will be arranged ahead of tryouts.
The biggest change will be the number of students allowed together at once and the spacing between groups, as it is not something that needed to be addressed before the pandemic. Newtown’s coaches have had time to fine-tune the CIAC’s plan’s procedures for each sport, according to the athletic director.
There may be other areas that become more problematic, Memoli said, and the department is working to figure those out.
Memoli also said all out-of-state competitions are canceled.
While some aspects have yet to be determined, Memoli stressed that everyone in the athletic department is doing everything they can to make sports for varsity, junior varsity, and freshman work this year. He is also looking at the middle school level programs.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to have seasons for all those levels,” said Memoli.