Excitement builds for fall athletics

Logistical questions remain for high school sports season

By Lauren Read

Observer correspondent

The Champlain Valley Union High School campus will be busy with athletics once again this fall. 

Last Friday, during one of his bi-weekly COVID-19 press conferences, Gov. Phil Scott officially announced that all fall sports could resume on Sept. 8, when schools open for students to return. 

“Kids, coaches and parents should prepare themselves,” he said. “Things will look much different, especially when it comes to high contact sports.”

The announcement came after months of speculation about whether or not the pandemic would derail yet another high school sports season after COVID-19 led to spring sports being cancelled.

“We were optimistic that there was going to be a fall season. Even if it looks different, the fact that we are going to have a fall season for all sports is very exciting,” said Dan Shepardson, the activities director at CVU. “This is a huge step forward compared to last spring.”

Fall sports include football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball, cross-country, golf and bass fishing. 

During a press conference with the governor on Tuesday, Vermont Principals Association Executive Director Jay Nichols said all athletes, coaches and fans will have to wear masks this season — with the exception of cross-country runners. 

All volleyball matches will be held outdoors, though practices can be held inside, and football will not be allowed to hold full-contact games; practices, training sessions and low-contact scrimmages will be allowed. The VPA is also exploring a 7-on-7 touch football option.

“Soccer and field hockey, even if you have to wear a mask, is the same game,” Shepardson said. “Volleyball, the kids aren’t used to playing outside in the cold, so I don’t know what that will look like.”

Practices will be allowed to resume on Sept. 8, but it’s unclear when games will begin to be played. 

“There is some talk about extending the fall season,” Shepardson said. “We had discussed the possibility that maybe we can push the season into November.”

If the season is going to go forward, he added, everyone needs to continue to follow the state regulations around COVID-19.

“They are going to have to make sure that they are modeling correct behavior,” he said. “If people want fall sports to actually happen, they need to continue doing the right things. Play by the rules.”

The next step, Shepardson said, is for the committees that govern each sport to meet and make decisions about the season, looking at what kind of postseason can be held and what sport-specific issues will need to be addressed before Sept. 8. 

“There are a lot of logistical details,” Shepardson said. “We will have questions and we will have to go back to the governor’s task force with some of those questions.”

The important thing, Shepardson said, was that the kids will get to play, no matter what it looks like. 

“It is going to help the mental well-being of our students,” he said. “I am excited for our kids to have the opportunity to participate in an activity they love.”