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Connecticut Students To Play High School Sports This Fall Amid Pandemic

Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public
A tackling drill takes place at a high school football training camp. Football players are among the student-athletes who may return to the field in the fall.

Students from state high schools will have a shot at athletic competition this fall.

Earlier this year, the state governing body of high school sports stopped play because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has a plan for Connecticut student-athletes to play in games starting Sept. 24 -- with pandemic-friendly adjustments.

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To mitigate student exposure to COVID-19, for example, teams will take on only regional rivals.

Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools/CIAC, said any changes to the plan will depend largely on state COVID-19 data, particularly positivity rates among young people.

“We’re confident in the plan that we have ... right now, based on the current health metrics within our state, but we also understand you could see a spike overnight that changes everything,” Lungarini said.

“We will remain fluid in this.”

Some student-athletes are already participating in summer training programs. Tammy Schondelmayer, athletic director at Bloomfield High School, is making sure her kids are following social distancing and mask requirements that make the sessions possible. She said the next few weeks of preparation in advance of a full return to play may be more daunting.

“We just need to be careful to follow all the protocols so that this goes well and everyone is able to do it for a long time, because there’s a lot at stake,” Schondelmayer said.

She said that involves monitoring physical distancing, ensuring sanitary conditions and tracking potentially COVID-19-positive students.

“My concern is making sure we have everything in place to get everything done,” said Schondelmayer, who’s awaiting further direction from Bloomfield’s superintendent of schools.

Once school starts, most teams will get a three-week conditioning period (football players will have more time) to prepare for the season. They’ll be able to practice in groups of 15 or fewer.

Football teams will play six games, with the final one scheduled for Oct. 30. Other fall sports schedules -- boys soccer, cross country, field hockey, girls soccer and girls volleyball -- will consist of 12 dates. Each one, with the exception of cross country (Oct. 29), finishes the regular season on Oct. 30.

After that, Lungarini hopes for some kind of tournament experience to get student-athletes competing into November. During the pandemic, winter and spring championships were abandoned.

“Whatever we do will be regionally based that will coincide with the teams that they play in the regular season to mitigate any spread of COVID and look to honor kids as much as we can,” Lungarini said.

Fall sports will begin a few weeks later than they normally would. That’s something Schondelmayer values.

“I think it’s important to have the kids show up at school and start going to school and get used to that before they start adding athletics and competition into the mix,” Schondelmayer said.

What might make her job easier in the coming weeks is watching her student-athletes compete. Schondelmayer said she looks forward to seeing them get back to something that was taken away from them during the pandemic.

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