CIAC Approves Plan for Modified Winter Sports Season
The CIAC has given approval for a winter sports season to take place in 2021. Pictured is Jared Yakimoff, a senior goalie on the Branford boys' ice hockey team. (File photo by Susan Lambert/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Basketball teams can start practicing this week as they get ready for the winter campaign. Pictured is Addison Marchese, a senior member of the Valley Regional girls' basketball squad. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has approved a plan for a modified winter sports season to begin with practices this week and games during the second week of February. However, much like the 2020 fall season, there will be a few sports left behind, and there will also be no state tournaments or championships for the teams that do compete.
On Jan. 14, the CIAC held a Board of Control meeting and subsequently announced that the 2021 winter season could commence with practices on Jan. 19 and games on Monday, Feb. 8. There will be a maximum of 12 regular-season games for boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, gymnastics, boys’ ice hockey, and boys’ swimming and diving teams, with no more than two games per week for each team. The same is the case for girls’ ice hockey, which is sanctioned by the Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association.
While there won’t be any state competitions, the CIAC will allow for leagues to host a “postseason experience” in the form of conference tournaments and championships—as was done in the fall—between Monday, March 15 and Sunday, March 28.
Some sports will not have an opportunity to compete amidst the COVID-19 pandemic this winter. Wrestling, competitive cheerleading, and competitive dance—three sports that are considered high-risk in terms of COVID transmission by the state Department of Health (DPH)—will be allowed to participate in small group conditioning and non-contact skill building, but will not be permitted to take part in competitions.
Sideline cheerleading and exhibition dance are allowed provided that participants wears masks and maintain a distance of at least six feet between each other.
Boys’ and girls’ indoor track will be limited to having practices through the end of February. In its plan, the CIAC stated that it will consider holding indoor and/or outdoor track meets in March. Running and throwing events in track are considered low-risk by the DPH, but the pole vault, high jump, and long jump are classified as moderate-risk.
The CIAC’s plan for winter sports was aligned with most recent guidance from the state DPH and is a “fluid document” that “will be updated as more data, health metrics, and sports specific information become available.”
CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini also announced that the plan to hold an alternative season—which would have taken place from March 19 to April 17 and included 11-on-11 tackle football, a sport considered high-risk—will not come to pass due to time constraints, along with the fact that the DPH has recommended to not play high-risk sports during the winter season.
Last September, the CIAC canceled the fall football season, but later announced a plan for an alternative season for any sport that didn’t complete at least 40 percent of its games during the regularly scheduled campaign. However, that plan was formulated under the stipulation that the regular season for winter sports would start on its initially planned date of Dec. 7.
With the winter season pushed back by two months and the spring practices now scheduled to start on Monday, March 29, the CIAC was running out of time to hold its alternative season and did not want athletes to have to choose between playing football and their other sports.
Regardless of any determinations made by the CIAC, the final decision as to whether a town may participate in sports during the winter season must be made by its respective school district. Just like with the fall season, the CIAC will allow each school district to decide its own policy on spectator attendance, but stated in its winter sports plan that its position is that “fans should not be allowed at interscholastic contests or practices.”
Coaches and officials will be required to wear masks at athletic events throughout the winter season. Basketball and hockey players will have to wear masks at all times, including during games, although they will be granted mask breaks and an opportunity to change their mask. Gymnasts and swimmers will not be required to wear masks while competing, but will have to wear masks at all other times at their contests.
The 2021 winter season will mark the fourth-straight campaign in which the CIAC will not host any state competitions. On March 10, 2020, the CIAC canceled the 2019-’20 winter season in the middle of the state tournaments as COVID-19 was on the verge of being declared a pandemic. The CIAC went on to cancel the entire 2020 spring season and then held a modified version of the fall season that did not feature any state tournaments or state championship meets.
The 2020-’21 winter season was originally slated to begin with practices on Nov. 21 and games on Dec. 7. However, on Nov. 17, the CIAC announced that it was moving back the first date of winter practices to Jan. 19, which wound up holding up as the start date based on the CIAC’s recently released winter sports plan. To read that plan in full, visit ciacsports.com.
As of press time, there were 223,422 people in Connecticut who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 6,594 fatalities. Connecticut is 34th in the United States in the amount of total cases and 19th in total deaths.
From the period of Jan. 11 to 15, 17,698 people in Connecticut were diagnosed with COVID-19, marking an increase of the 15,874 who were diagnosed with COVID from Jan. 4 to 8 and the second-highest amount for any week since the pandemic began.