The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Directors approved the return of high school sports earlier this month for the upcoming school year, starting with a fall season that is scheduled to run from Sept. 18 to Nov. 20.
On Friday, the MIAA announced specific and, in many cases stringent, modifications in seven sports (along with dance) that are in compliance with guidelines established by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education so that games, meets and matches can occur.
The modifications were made by MIAA individual sports committees and vetted by the Sports Medicine Committee before being unanimously approved by the COVID-19 Task Force on Thursday.
Five of the sports — cross-country, field hockey, golf, soccer, and girls’ volleyball — are contested in Central Mass. during the fall. The other two sports, gymnastics and swimming/diving, are held in other parts of the state during the fall.
There has been a lot of talk about girls’ volleyball being shifted to the fall II, or floating, season from Feb. 22 to April 25 (when football will be held) to free up gym space for educational purposes, so with that in mind, here are key modifications for the four sports that are expected to be played.
Some sports will be dramatically altered by the changes — first and foremost soccer— but most importantly the competitions will commence in some form that meets new normal standards.
Runners should practice in pods of 5-10.
For the time being, only dual meets are allowed.
If “practical and/or possible,” each league will identify one course that has wider spacing and can be used multiple days to host all league dual meets. That scenario is also ideal because visiting teams are no longer allowed to “walk” the course before a race, so it would breed familiarity.
Staggered starts in smaller groups are required, possibly with waves of eight to 10 runners. Said runners should be spaced 6 feet apart. Those are two of nine requirements related to the starting area alone.
Runners should maintain social distancing during the race and not cluster — i.e. run in a pack — and finish lines should be a minimum of 28 feet ,with the left side designated for one team and the right for the other.
Runners can remove face coverings during the race when socially distanced, but should be prepared to use them after crossing the finish line, although consideration will be given for breathing and/or exhaustion issues.
Players will be reduced from 11 to seven per side, one of whom must be a goalie.
No penalty corners, instead fouls in the circle would be 25-yard hits; all players must be five yards away on free hits; no bully’s, instead it will be alternating possession.
No pregame stick inspection. Instead, coaches will be responsible for making sure all of their players’ equipment is legal.
Officials cannot use traditional whistles. Electronic whistles and air horns are allowed. (Same goes for soccer.)
While there are plenty of modifications for golf, most of them are pretty basic and easy to implement, which is what one would expect of the only “lower risk” sport of the fall season.
The clubhouse is off limits except for the restroom, which is restricted to one person at a time.
No handshakes and fist or elbow bumps among players and no sharing of equipment.
Prior to each match, the visiting coach should send a list of participants to the home coach, who in turn will send a copy of the local rules to visiting coach to eliminate the need for handouts on match day.
Face coverings must be worn and social distance practiced at all times, although masks can be removed during the match as long as players are at least 6 feet apart.
Single tee starts should be staggered at a minimum of 10 minutes between groups.
Matches will be played in four equal quarters of 20 minutes apiece. There will be a 2-minute break between the first/second and third/fourth quarters, with the usual 10 minutes at halftime.
No timeouts are allowed.
All players, coaches, referees and other game personnel must wear a face covering during play. The exception being when a player is more than 10 feet from an opponent. Failure to have a face covering securely/properly worn will result in an indirect free kick for the opposing team after the offending player is issued a yellow card.
Intentionally heading the ball, placing one’s hands on any part of an opposing player’s body and intentionally making body contact (shoulder to shoulder, backing in, etc.) are no longer allowed. Each infraction will result in an indirect free kick for the opponent.
Even attempting a slide tackle will result in a direct kick for the opponent.
Throw-ins aren’t allowed and have been replaced by a kick-in.
Indirect kicks must be played on the ground, corner kicks have been replaced by indirect kicks, and goalkeepers aren’t allowed to kick, punt, dropkick or throw the ball beyond the midfield line.
The use of a defensive wall is not allowed (think social distancing).
If a player steps toward the referee with the intention of complaining or arguing, he or she will be given a yellow card. If the player comes within 6 feet of an official to initiate a dispute, a red card will be issued.
—Contact Rich Garven at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RichGarvenTG.
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