Competing Under Pandemic Playbook

Athletes discuss what it’s like to play with new regs


Among other rules, athletes had to play with masks this fall.

Molly Oldread, Sports Editor

This year, Minnechaug athlets have adapted to new Covid-19 Guidelines, including playing with masks and without any physical contact.

“It’s definitely a disappointment,” varsity soccer player, Katie Slattery, said about her soccer season, “but it’s better than nothing.” 

The new regs impact families, too, as social distancing includes limiting fans to each event.

Mr. Roy, the athletic director at Minnechaug Regional High School, said the safety guidelines were created by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. 

Those regs then went through The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (MIAA) Covid Task Force, which modified them for each individual sport. The final modifications went to the MIAA Board of Directors for approval–and were ultimately sent out to school districts like ours.

Mr. Roy made sure all of Minnechaugs teams were able to and prepared to play, while following all Covid guidelines.

The goal of the MIAA and our school is to guarantee the safety of players, coaches, reffs, and fans. 

With the ban on any contacts in games and no huddles, the hope was to make it through the fall season. Unfortunately, with an outbreak in cases on teams such as field hockey and soccer, fall sports were cancelled.  

Before the season was cancelled, our student athletes faced a set of challenges, trying to navigate all the new guidelines.

Olivia Long, who’s on the Varsity Volleyball team, said the regs hurt athletic performance. 

“It makes it more difficult because it affects how you can run your offense,” she said. “Passes have to be farther off the net so the sets can be behind the COVID line so our hitters can take a full approach and attack without violating the new rule which took time to adapt to.”

The soccer team had to face similar guidelines–and challenges–and both had to give things up such as team huddles and any physical contact whatsoever. The seniors this year have faced a huge loss of their last season.  

“I think they’re obviously disappointed that they can’t have as wonderful of a senior season as the last couple years have been,” Slattery said. “There’s no playoffs as of right now so there’s no last chance at a Western Mass win, but they’re definitely happy that we have something at least.” 

The loss was big for many athletes. Mr. Roy, for example, recalled his daughter, Madison, who graduated last year, not being able to compete in her last lacrosse season and how heartbreaking it was for her. 

He explained this year’s senior nights were different and yet special: “ We did the ceremonies after games (by regulations) when the visiting team left. It had a ‘just us’ feel to them. Even post Covid, I’m thinking we will do them like this after games.” 

Within the past few weeks, with the spread of a new outbreak of cases, the last few games of the fall sports season were cancelled.  

While the athletes were hoping to be able to end their season with at least some sense of normalcy, there was too much concern about a spread of cases in the school, including some teams having to quarantine because of contact.

Mr. Roy said that the decision to end the fall season “was a hard call, but the right call at the time.”

Future seasons are still in the works. The winter season guidelines and modifications are in place, but Mr. Roy and other schools are still working on how to implement them safely.

A survey was sent out by Mr. Roy to all the fall athletes. This survey discussed how guidelines were followed in practices and how they could be improved. Mr. Roy received 116 responses to the survey–and he read each one.

“Overall, the season helped their social and emotional well being,” Roy said of athletes. “To be honest, the results of this [survey] gave me the motivation to work even harder to make sure we offer sports in the winter.” 

The Fall Two season which includes football, fall cheer, and indoor track is scheduled to start in March. These are currently on course to happen. Indoor track is reliant on Smith College hosting meets. Mr. Roy stated that Smith may not be able to do this. 

The winter sports are more difficult to plan for due to the fact they are all indoor, which can make social distancing more of a challenge. 

Overall the goal is to make sure the players and coaches are as safe as possible. Which means spectators will be very limited and swim meets will be virtual. 

Luckily, the gym at Minnechaug can live stream games. The “no fans” policy is not ideal,Mr Roy said, and everyone working on the sports program understands how important it is for parents to see their children play, and even friends see their classmates play as well. 

“I don’t see a ‘normal spectator’ experience until next fall honestly.” Mr. Roy said, but he has made arrangements for virtual tickets going forward to make things safer. 

Despite these difficult times in school, sports, and the whole world, improvements are being made to our everyday lives, and Mr. Roy believes that “even post Covid we will see some cool changes coming to our program.”