By Zach Lichter
It’s hard to believe, but the 2020-21 winter sports season ended last week, five weeks into spring.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many of school traditions that make the year special. This year Wall High School’s basketball, competition cheer and bowling seasons were delayed until Jan. 11. The ice hockey and chess seasons started Dec. 14 but, on Jan. 13, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) shut down winter sports until Feb. 5 after multiple outbreaks across the state.
“I believe they wanted to allow for the post holiday ‘uptick’ in cases to die down before starting sports,” said Wall Athletic Director Mr. Thomas Ridoux. “Chess is being conducted virtually, therefore, that wasn't a safety concern. They decided not to move the ice hockey (again) due to the many contractual obligations that existed between schools and ice rinks."
Winter sports were already a challenge to make sure that the seasons ran smoothly and safely even before they began. Coming into the fall and winter, it was expected the number of COVID cases would increase.
“The biggest challenge is to maximize mask wearing and social distancing as much as possible, particularly for those who are not immediately involved in intense practice drills and gameplay,” Mr. Ridoux said. “The more we can do that, the less chance that someone who has COVID will spread it to other team members.”
The other challenge was not having spectators at the games. Initially the NJSIAA did not allow spectators to go to indoor events, which meant that many parents who had seniors on those winter sports teams wouldn’t be able to see their sons and daughters play for the last time. They were able to watch their children play on the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) website. Mr. Ridoux was able to get an NFHS camera installed in the North Gym for events that take place there.
Along with many of the challenges the NJSIAA had to face, it actually came up with some safe alternatives. In basketball, the officials were going to have a coin toss to see who would get the ball first instead of having a tip off. The officials were not going to come in contact with the ball during the course of the games. Participants in ice hockey wore gloves.
“The NJSIAA is limiting the amount of meets per team and this year we only have 3-4 meets opposed to 6-7 meets,” said Wall High School senior sprinter Michael Nolan. “This year there are only four racers if you are running a 55-meter sprint and five runners for 200 meters and 400 meters. Usually there are eight racers for a 55-meter sprint and 12 for a 200- and 400-meter run.”
Overall, it was not the winter sports season people envisioned. But they tired to make the most of the challenging school year.
“My biggest takeaway is that I was able to learn that you may have to work harder at times but the results will speak for themselves,” Nolan said. “This season we had to work harder mentally and physically which made everyone improve.”
6/5/2021 06:03:35 am
Nicely done, Zach. Glad to see that good writing has not gotten "sidelined" throughout all of this.
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