By Katy Savage
Gov. Phil Scott announced earlier this month that fall sports can resume starting Sept. 8, but many teams have been practicing all summer.
When Scott lifted restrictions on recreational activities and group gatherings in June, school teams started holding voluntary practices and conditioning sessions, with notably high attendance.
The Woodstock Union High School football team has held conditioning sessions twice a week all summer, with as many as 18 students participating.
“[Students] haven’t been allowed to do anything since March,” said football coach Ramsey Worrell. “I’m sure they were very cooped up and willing to jump at just about anything.”
But football players haven’t been able to run drills or scrimmage since football is considered a high-contact sport. The Woodstock team has been running hills and flipping large tires instead to train this summer. Worrell said he was surprised by how many have come to sessions.
“If I had tried this last summer, I probably would have had low turnout,” Worrell said.
The boys and girls soccer teams, football, cross country and field hockey teams at Woodstock have been meeting twice a week for practices, with up to 20 students participating, said Woodstock Athletic Director Quaron Pickney. Some coaches have also organized scrimmages against other teams as the guidelines for fall sports were in limbo.
Martha Perkins, the Woodstock Union High School varsity cross country coach, also said she’s held voluntary practices in previous summers, but this year she’s seen more students than ever.
“People are happy to have some sort of engagement,” Perkins said.
Students are required to fill out a health questionnaire before practice and maintain social distancing. Perkins said runners wear masks for warm ups and stretching and then take off their masks when they start running. Perkins said she’s also had to adjust her coaching style: runners used to ran in packs by speed, now they run by themselves.
Other school districts have also had high participation rates in summer sports.
Hartford High School Athletic Director Jeff Moreno said 90% of student athletes have participated in summer sessions this year. “Kids are itching to get out, parents are itching to get them out,” he said.
Fall, winter and spring sports teams at Rutland City Public Schools have been practicing since early July. Some teams meet twice a week, some meet five days a week for about an hour, said Athletic Director Mike Norman.
“I think it’s important to get the kids together and get back some sense of normalcy,” Norman said. “They’ve been out of school for three plus months and haven’t been able to see anybody.”
For many schools, preseason sports would be underway now, with practices twice a day before school starts. Games would typically start in late August. Due to the pandemic, this year’s games are being pushed back until Sept. 21, if all goes well., according to Jay Nichols executive director of the Vt. Principals Association, who spoke at a press conference, Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Nichols confirmed that all sport would have a fall season — to some capacity. But said all athletes will be required to wear masks at all times, except for cross-country runners when running. Contact football will not be permitted, he said but a 7-on-7 touch football season is in the works. More detailed sport specific guidance will be outlined later in the week.
Norman said coaches had been planning on a shortened fall sports schedule and are also are considering canceling games that require a long travel time. Large meets and championships will also likely be canceled.