MIAA approves winter modifications

Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2020 7:12:09 PM
Modified: 11/20/2020 7:11:56 PM

The path toward a winter sports season in Franklin County received some more clarity this week. 

The MIAA’s Board of Directors (BOD) met Friday on a conference call to vote on the amendments made by the COVID-19 Task Force following the state’s Environment of Energy and Affairs’ (EEA) updated guidelines. The BOD voted to give the green light to basketball, hockey, swimming, alpine skiing, Nordic skiing and gymnastics to proceed with their winter seasons, with modifications put in place to make each sport safer.

“It is great to see that so many of our student-athletes will be able to take part in the sports they love this winter,” MIAA president and Marshfield superintendent Jeff Granatino said in a statement. “Many coaches, athletic directors, principals and superintendents worked hard over the past few weeks to ensure that we would be able to offer interscholastic athletes for our students, and I want to thank them for their efforts.

“The pandemic has reshaped the way education is delivered across the country and the same can be said about its impact on athletics,” he continued. “Nonetheless, I am confident our student-athletes and coaches will adjust to the new expectations this winter and have an experience as fulfilling and as exciting as what we saw during the fall season.”

Basketball, hockey and wrestling were considered high risk sports by the EEA, but basketball and hockey were given a go-ahead to proceed with their seasons this winter as long as modifications were put in place. 

The BOD voted for the winter season to begin Dec. 14, but sports in Franklin County won’t begin until Jan. 4 following a decision by the Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference (PVIAC) to delay the start of the season. 

With the guidance and approval from the MIAA in place, each individual school district must now decide whether or not to have a season in each respective sport. Some districts will require school committee approval depending on their remote learning situation.

In a 17-3 vote, the BOD voted to postpone winter indoor track to the Fall II season. That came following a 14-7 vote by the COVID-19 Task Force to delay the season as many colleges and facilities that would ordinarily host the meets are not open yet. That includes Smith College in Northampton, which normally hosts Western Mass. meets on Friday nights but is currently closed to the public.

Wrestling was moved to the spring season following a 19-3 vote by the BOD. The EEA guidelines gave wrestling Levels 1 and 2 approval, meaning only practices were allowed since it is considered a close contact sport. By moving to the spring, the hope is the season can be held outdoors, similar to football, another high risk, close contact sport, which was given approval to play games by the EEA in the Fall II season as it is contested outdoors. 

Some amendments to basketball include mandatory mask wearing during games, no halftime, no jump balls to start the game, a maximum of four players in the lane during free throws and no underneath out of bounds plays.

Some other in-game adjustments will be the encouragement of referees calling the 5-second dribble rule and freedom of movement rules that are already in place. The hope is by calling these consistently, contact between players will become less frequent.

The BOD amended the rule to have game day rosters hold between 12-15 players per team, as long as each team can socially distance. The shift was made after an 11-9 vote to change the previous amendment that each team could have a maximum of 12 players on each roster. 

The remainder of the amendments, which included a slew of safety protocols such as disinfecting the game ball between quarters and hand sanitizer usage by each player before entering and exiting the game, was approved by a 20-0 vote by the BOD. 

The hockey amendments put forth by the COVID-19 Task Force were approved by the BOD by a 20-0 vote, with the lone amendment stating that rink design respective to social distancing may dictate the total number of participants. The amendment put forth by the Task Force limited rosters from 22 players to 20 for each team. 

Some of the amendments to hockey include mandatory face covering while playing and limiting bench personnel to no more than three coaches and one athletic trainer (bench areas will need to be expanded to provide proper social distancing). Locker rooms will be closed and only one player will be allowed in the penalty box at a time. 

Each player must be six feet apart during faceoffs and only one offensive and one defensive player are permitted in any scrum along the boards. If a third player joins, the referees will be instructed to immediately stop play. 

The modifications to alpine skiing, gymnastics, Nordic skiing and swimming were each approved by a 20-0 vote by the BOD.

For both alpine and Nordic skiing, practices must be conducted in pods of five-to-10 athletes, with six-foot social distancing at the start line with staggered starts. 

Swimming and diving must only compete in dual meets in person, with teams sitting on opposite ends of the pool. During the race, teams will be in lanes next to each other. 


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