Hope on the Horizon for a Return to High School Sports

Massachusetts Aims for Youth Sports to Resume This Fall

Graham Quigley, Sports Editor

With many athletes across the state losing their spring sports seasons as a result of the coronavirus pandemicーwhether that be a high school, club, or town travel teamーmost of the focus on Massachusetts Youth Sports has shifted to preparing for the return of sports in the fall. Although the pandemic continues to run amok and prevent a complete return to normalcy, the decision has been made by the Massachusetts state government to begin reopening the state. The slow reopening has revived hopes of playing sports for many high school and youth athletes this calendar year.

Massachusetts is currently under Phase Two of the plan created by Governor Charlie Baker and his close advisors, which includes youth sports resuming practice with strict guidelines. Even in Cambridge, there has been buzz that Cambridge Youth Soccer (CYS) could return to the field by the end of June. In an email sent out to CYS members, the organization expressed much optimism in returning, and even suggested that such a return could occur in the ensuing weeks. Phil Fousek, coach of the Boys Varsity Soccer team at CRLS, commented on the recent scramble to bring back youth sports, “I do believe there will be at least some opportunity for youth sports activity to happen this summer”. He continued on saying, “With Phase 2 of his [Baker’s] reopening plan now in effect, I think it is very possible that the state could enter Phase 3 before the summer is over.” 

I do believe there will be at least some opportunity for youth sports activity to happen this summer”

— Phil Fousek

Speculation as to the return of sports for the summer is quite a welcoming sign for high school athletes statewide. The fact that games will be allowed to return (in theory) in Phase 3, which is scheduled tentatively for the beginning of July (June 29th at the earliest), signals that sports, in all likelihood, will return by the end of the summer—in time for high school fall sports tryouts. Ryan McLaughlin ‘21, a member of the CRLS golf team, is incredibly excited by the possibility of a return to play, especially for golf—a sport that has already commenced play across the state. He told the Register Forum, “I’m very optimistic that this [return to play] will happen in the fall, especially with what is happening now, and Phase Two opening.”

Despite the recent positive news, the recent rush to reopen sporting clubs and municipal youth sports organizations across the state is quite juxtaposed to previously expressed, as well as some currently held sentiments on sporting gatherings. Chris Gould ‘22, a cross country runner, was still very cautious while discussing the possibilities of a Fall Season. Gould posited, “I’m hopeful that it will get better, that infection rates will go down enough that our lives will start to look normal again. Although, I am concerned that there might be a second wave over the summer, especially as things start to reopen.” 

Due to the immense amount of uncertainties and the constantly evolving situation surrounding COVID-19, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has yet to issue any formal statement regarding changes in the Fall season. Tom Arria, the athletic director here at CRLS, as well as a member of the MIAA’s Board of Directors, commented, “A very difficult thing in all of this, is the decision making process.”

However, this uncertainty hasn’t kept the MIAA in a state of purgatory. In order to provide a safe and coordinated effort in returning to play, the MIAA voted in May to install a COVID-19 Task Force with the sole purpose of bringing teams back to play. The task force is hoping to create a set of guidelines that can be used across the state for the reentry of youth competition, yet Arria was quick to say that the decisions will ultimately be up to municipalities. He said to the Register Forum, “Again this is a decision that will have to be allowable by school and district Administrations, city health departments, and also by the MIAA to allow for contests to take place again.” 

When asked about what possible changes could be in store for the fall season, Arria responded: “Yes, there will be elements which change for the future. For instance—handshakes or fist bumps at the beginning or end of the game. This is something we will not see again for a long time, or maybe ever again”. Fousek reiterated this point saying, “Soccer is a close contact sport, and I would not be surprised to see some changes.”

The looming threat of long term change is representative of exactly how the coronavirus is wreaking havoc, however, the recent news is certainly welcomed by most high school athletes, as it is reason for hope in a drab and somber moment. For many of these athletes, this past spring was a time of anguish and heartbreak. Amidst the global pandemic, the cancellation of the spring sports season not only caused seniors to lose their ‘last dance’, but all athletes to lose their chance to see their efforts find a satisfying conclusion. The recent actions by both the Massachusetts state government and the MIAA demonstrate both a newfound hope and a determination to keep this spring’s heartbreak from occurring yet again.