MIAA approves winter sports modifications; indoor track (Fall II), wrestling (spring) change seasons

  • Belchertown head coach Matt Crutch strategizes with his team during a time out in the third period of the Orioles' 4-2 win over Greenfield in a Western Massachusetts Division 3A semifinal at Olympia Ice Arena in West Springfield on Saturday, March 2, 2019. KEVIN GUTTING/STAFF PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2020 5:44:48 PM
Modified: 11/20/2020 5:44:35 PM

Winter high school sports in Massachusetts cleared their latest hurdle Friday when the MIAA board of directors approved modifications for six of the eight sanctioned activities. The other two opted to move to different seasons for a chance to compete.

“It may look a little different than what you’ve seen in the past, but so does everything in education today,” MIAA president Jeff Granatino said. “Our athletes, coaches, administrators and fans have worked together to make it work this fall.”

Alpine skiing, basketball, ice hockey, nordic skiing and swimming & diving all had their modifications approved unanimously in a virtual meeting. The board of directors also voted 20-1 to move the winter sports start date from Nov. 30 to Dec. 14. In western Massachusetts, the PVIAC previously voted unanimously to start the winter season on Jan. 4.

Wrestling successfully petitioned to move its season to the spring after Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs guidelines didn’t allow for any form of competition other than practice. The wrestling committee decided to go with the spring rather than the Fall II season, scheduled for Feb. 22 to April 25, because that would clash with football.

Committee liason Phil Napolitano said 40 percent of wrestlers play football, while only 25 percent participate in spring sports. It would also allow them to compete outside, whereas the committee figured it would be in the same position if it tried to start inside during Fall II.

“We felt wrestling had no path (in Fall II),” Napolitano said.

The motion to push wrestling to spring was approved 19-3.

Indoor track & field requested to move to Fall II because of the difficulty of facility access. The Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, which hosts state championship meets and many eastern Mass. competitions, isn’t open and might not until the end of the year. Other indoor facilities, like Smith College, which hosts meets in western Mass., also won’t be available for outside parties. Should some sections or schools have access to a facility, they can petition the District Athletic Committee to move back to winter. Those districts can’t then double dip and also compete in Fall II.

The board approved the move 17-3.

Winter sports

Modifications for the six remaining sports were all approved unanimously. Basketball and ice hockey received amendments.

The original basketball modifications called for a 12-player limit for game day rosters and 15 people allowed on the bench. Duxbury athletic director Thomas Holdgate proposed raising the limits to 15 and 18, which passed 11-9 with some discussion on whether the COVID-19 Task Force, which sent the modifications to the board, should have the ability to sign off on the amendment.

Hockey’s alteration was more vague. The board added the language “rink design respective of social distancing may dictate the total amount of players that can participate in a contest” to the modifications. Both passed unanimously. That came after concerns about facility access and a rink’s ability to offer the necessary space were raised.

“Schools are going to have to work with their rink personnel to make space to spread people out. Every rink you go into, it’s going to be different,” MIAA ice hockey chairman Dan Shine said. “You are relying on the cooperation of rink personnel to assist you. I think it can be done but it will be challenging.”

Many of the sports are receiving modifications in similar veins that will be familiar from the fall season. Cloth face masks will be required. Locker rooms must remain closed except for the bathroom facilities. Benches shouldn’t be used during practice. Only essential personnel will be permitted on the playing surface. Social distancing must be maintained during huddles. There won’t be team handshakes. Spectators must follow social distancing and other state guidelines for occupancy. Equipment and water bottles shouldn’t be shared.

Sports specific modifications will also need to be followed:

BASKETBALL — Pre-game meetings will be limited to a single captain from each team and one official. Only the starting five will be announced. Halftime is eliminated, while the time between quarters will be extended by 2 minutes, 30 seconds. The game ball will change at the end of each quarter.

Timeouts will be 1:15 longer to provide time for sanitizing and social distancing. The six-quarter rule, which allows players to play both varsity and JV games, has been suspended. The use of swing players is discouraged except to sustain a program.

The jump ball to start a game will be replaced with a throw in from half court. A coin toss will determine possession to start the game.

For substitutions, one player will report to the scorers table and inform the scorer of the changes being made. Multiple substitutions can still be made concurrently. Players must enter through the scorers table and use hand sanitizer when entering or exiting the court.

Free-throw lanes will be limited to four players. On multiple-shot fouls, players will only enter the lane for the final attempt. All sideline out of bounds plays under the basket will be eliminated, and instead the ball will be inbounded at the foul line extended.

To avoid contact at the end of games, team representatives will notify the officials if they want to foul to preserve time and only have to administer a “light tag” to receive the foul call.

ICE HOCKEY — Only one player is allowed in the penalty box at a time. If another player is sent there, they must be sent to an “auxiliary box or location” socially distanced outside the penalty box or bench area.

Players must line up 6 feet away from each other during face offs except for the participants for the puck drop. Only one defensive player and one offensive player are allowed in a scrum along the boards.

ALPINE SKIING — Schools will arrive in a staggered manner, and competitors should arrive dressed with equipment ready to compete. Their method of transportation will become their warming areas. Facilities must have designated warm up and warm down areas to ensure social distancing. Race results should be provided virtually whenever possible.

NORDIC SKIING — Teams should arrive in a staggered manner with equipment ready. Skis must be waxed prior to arrival, but touch ups may be performed in an area that allows for social distancing with a capacity limit of two. There will be staggered starts in small groups with waves from the same school. The number of skiers in the start will be determined by the site and size of the starting line. A minimum of three minutes should be allotted between each wave.

SWIMMING & DIVING — Only dual meets will be allowed in person. Masks must be worn by all coaches, staff and athletes not competing or warming up. Swimmers can unmask on the starting block, and the masks will be placed in a plastic zip lock bag and be available at the end of the race. Virtual meets will be possible as long as teams compete on the same day or within a day of each other.

Teams will swim in either lanes 1-3 or 4-6, which is opposite of the alternating lanes typically used. All swimmers must exit from the opposite end of the pool from the starting blocks, which will supplement warm downs and reduce congestion at the starting blocks. Relay swimmers will depart the starting area immediately after finishing.

Now that the MIAA has approved the sports modifications, the next step is for individual districts and school committees to allow modifications and make plans to begin practices and competitions.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow on Twitter @kgrbwsk.




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