CIAC Announces Spring Sports Plan, Potential Summer Series for Football and Wrestling
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) held a Board of Control meeting on March 10 and subsequently made a couple of announcements that will affect how the high school sports landscape is going to be shaping up during the next few months. The CIAC released its plan to play the 2021 spring season and also stated that it is planning to host summer programs for football players and wrestlers in order to help compensate for the instruction lost when their seasons were canceled.
The spring season will begin with practices for all teams on Saturday, March 27. Pitchers and catchers on baseball teams will be allowed to start practicing on Saturday, March 20. The regular season is scheduled to get underway on Saturday, April 10 and run through Thursday, May 27, with the exception of golf, which will run through Wednesday, June 2.
The season is slated to be played as a full campaign in which teams will compete in their typical number of regular-season contests and then participate in state tournaments and championships that will take place from Tuesday, June 1 through Saturday, June 12.
It has now been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 winter state tournaments as they were ongoing. The last time that state tournaments were completed in Connecticut was during fall 2019. Last year, the entire spring season was canceled.
Sports played in the spring season include baseball, softball, outdoor track, tennis, boys’ volleyball, golf, lacrosse, crew, and sailing.
Based on recent guidance from the Connecticut Department of Health, the CIAC announced that athletes who play outdoor sports during the 2021 spring season will not be required to wear masks while competing, but will be allowed to do so if they want to. The athletes who play boys’ volleyball, which is an indoor sport, will be required to wear masks during their matches.
Much like the 2020 fall season and the 2021 winter season, there will be a variety of mitigating strategies and safety practices put into place during the spring campaign due to COVID-19. Athletes will still have to wear masks any time that they are not actively competing. Coaches, players, officials, game workers, and spectators will be required to wear masks at all times.
At its recent Board of Control meeting, the CIAC also reviewed a proposal for a Summer Series that would allow football and wrestling coaches to engage student-athletes in education-based learning and sport skill development opportunities in June and July. The Summer Series would take place at regional host sites. The proposed structure consists of a five-day experience featuring 2 ½ hours of in-person instruction per day, two hours of individual skill development and team play per day, and a minimum of 30 minutes dedicated to in-person leadership and sportsmanship skill building on four of the five days.
The traditional 11-on-11 full-contact football season was canceled last fall, as was the wrestling season for the current winter campaign. Football programs were still allowed to run low- to moderate-risk activities, and wrestling teams have been allowed to conduct conditioning and non-contact skill building.
The CIAC board felt that additional opportunities for instruction in these sports could be beneficial and thus voted to move the Summer Series proposal forward to the out-of-season subcommittee for full vetting by principals, athletic directors, and coaches.
After Governor Ned Lamont announced that all sports would be allowed to compete statewide beginning on Friday, March 19, there was a possibility for a brief wrestling season to be held through Sunday, March 28. However, a recent membership survey determined that 70 percent of schools with wrestling teams preferred to continue with the current format.
The 2021 winter season began without wrestling on Feb. 10. Teams are playing shortened seasons and there will be no state tournaments or state championships, although conferences are hosting league tournaments during the next two weeks. Several teams in the state have seen multiple games either postponed or canceled after having gone into quarantine due to potential COVID exposure.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Connecticut has been dropping throughout the past couple of months. From the week of March 8 to 12, there were 5,247 people in the state who were diagnosed with COVID-19, marking the lowest number in any week since Oct. 19 to Oct. 23, 2020.
As of press time, there were 290,577 people in Connecticut who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 7,765 fatalities. Connecticut is 34th in the United States in the number of total cases and 22nd in the country in total deaths.