The New Look Fall Season: How Covid-19 has impacted sports

Jake Scruton, Journalist

2020 has been a very strange year and Coronavirus has been the catalyst for many difficult situations. For students, a school year cut short led to a long summer of social distancing and mask-wearing. Hoping for a bit of normalcy as the new school year approached, students were looking forward to getting back to their routines and especially playing sports again; however, those hopes were short-lived as the virus did not subside. Schools began to panic, and questions about even having a school year were at large. To the dismay of athletes everywhere, sports were taking a backseat in order to get back in the classroom. As the days and weeks passed, inching closer and closer to a new school year, questions remained about school and sports. The MIAA had still not decided on the fall season, as sports normally played in the fall such as football and volleyball began to be moved to the spring. Not knowing if their sport would be the next to go, students awaited a decision that could effectively end their hopes at a fall sports season. With only weeks until the season started, however, the tide turned.

Boys’ and girls’ soccer, field hockey, golf, and cross country would all take place and have their seasons as scheduled. But, with the new rules and regulations to soccer and field hockey, how have the athletes and coaches been holding up?

Cooper Norton, captain of the boy’s soccer team, is keeping his hopes up. “I’m just glad to be out there playing soccer. Over the summer I was very prepared for the possibility of no season at all, so being able to play is a great trade-off for a few annoying rule changes.” Soccer was one of the sports largely impacted by the new rule changes. With no more heading, corner kicks, throw-ins, and limited contact, the game has changed a lot. When asked about the new rule changes Norton admitted that it has been tough but he believes “The team is handling the rule changes pretty well so far,”continuing, saying,“It’s certainly frustrating, but we know that everyone else and our opponents are having to deal with the exact same thing. We just try to go out there and play to the best of our ability and force the refs to make the calls.” Norton and his teammates seem to have a positive mindset and are handling it well from the player’s perspective. However, what is it like coaching during these unprecedented times?

For that, third-year varsity girls coach David Wood had the answers. Coach Wood made it clear that it was challenging right from the get-go, starting with his preparations for the preseason. “Instead of planning out tryout days in the kind of detail I’m used to, I had to think about cohorts and the space constraints of a given practice surface.” Along with the preseason, practices are also looking a bit differently this year. Coach Wood has had to be very diligent and deliberate in his practice planning, saying “Practices have to take place in cohorts, meaning the team is separated into groups unless we’re scrimmaging. Players wear masks at all times and must stay at least six feet apart.” Even with the struggles, Coach Wood’s team is keeping their heads up and are prepared for the challenges ahead. “The players have been resilient all year and taken the restrictions in stride,” said Wood, “The players are just happy to be outside playing the game they all love. I couldn’t be more proud of their attitude, especially the seniors who are saying goodbye to high school soccer in this strange format.” Although soccer has had some of the biggest changes to their game, they’re not the only team learning a new way of playing their sport.

Another victim of the harsh rule changes has been the girl’s field hockey team. They may have had the biggest change to their sport as the normal 11v11 games were changed to 7v7. However, the team is off to a great start, already beating teams like Manchester Essex and Lynnfield. Captain Sam Orroth feels that a reason for their success is that the team has adapted quickly to the new changes, specifically the number of players on the field. Orroth said, “At first I was skeptical of the change and thought it would ruin the game. However, after our first game, I came to like the new change because it helped to open up the field more so there was less clumping.” Another big change with all sports is the wearing of masks while playing. Almost no one is a fan of the new rule, and Orroth concurs, adding that, “Wearing masks is not the most enjoyable and is very annoying,” continuing on saying, “They definitely impact my play because they tend to make it harder to breathe.” But, she and the rest of the team couldn’t care less. “I don’t mind wearing them,” Orroth said, “Because they make it so I am able to have a senior season.”

Whether it’s fewer players on the field, new rules for playing, or having to change the way they coach, everyone’s sport has been affected by the virus. However, one thing is clear; no matter how many rule changes there are or how difficult it becomes, people just want to play and coach the sports that they love.