CHESHIRE — The CIAC didn’t waste time offering relief to high school coaches who lost the 2020 spring season to the coronavirus pandemic.
Coming out of a Thursday morning meeting, its last of the 2019-20 school year, the CIAC Board of Control announced it would ease, for one year only, out-of-season coaching rules.
The waiver applies only to spring coaches. Through the rest of May, coaches can continue meeting online with their players, as many have been doing throughout the spring, offering instruction, drills, conditioning tips and the like.
Coaches can continue doing such “virtual” online coaching from June 1 through August 17, which is when football conditioning is scheduled to start.
During that June 1-August 17 time frame, should the state ease social distancing rules and re-open recreational facilities and give the green light to athletic activites, coaches and players can gather for in-person training and practices.
“We opened up the ability to coach virtually this spring, but the feeling was that’s not nearly the same same thing, and (athletes) haven’t had a chance to be with their teammates. They haven’t had much of any opportunity at all,” said Joel Cookson, the CIAC’s Director of Media and Sports Information. “To try to make it so they could have some of those opportunities this summer, pending if the governor says some of that stuff is going to be allowed, that was the direction everybody felt we should go.”
During the spring, along with empathizing with seniors who were losing their final season of high school athletics, a number of area coaches noted the damage a lost season would have on their program. Underclassmen were losing a year of development. Freshmen weren’t getting off Square 1.
“There’s going to be some development delays,” Southington baseball coach Charlie Lembo remarked in mid-April, when there was still a chance something could be salvaged of the spring. “This is the end of the fifth week; we’re not out on the field with the guys. They’re going to try to do as much in their yards as they can, but it’s not the same as going through a full practice.”
The CIAC Board of Control agreed.
“The feeling was, if we didn’t allow this, there was a chance you might have spring coaches who wouldn’t have direct contact with their kids for 12 months,” said Cookson.
Under normal circumstances, the CIAC does not allow high school coaches to coach or instruct players outside of the high school season.
There are exceptions. Example: if a coach runs a non-school program out of season, such as American Legion baseball, he can have a few of his high school players on the team, though no more than a set number that varies by sport.
There will be no such limit on numbers if spring coaches and players get a chance to gather this summer.
However, there will be restrictions. Technically, any summer practice will be considered a non-school activity. That means they’ll likely have to be held at facilities off school grounds. Also, participation can not be mandatory.
“You can’t couch it in, ‘OK, this is an official Maloney practice,” Cookson said by way of example. “It has to be voluntary, for one thing, and non-affiliated with the school. The coach can’t sell it as, ‘This is required if you want to be part of the Maloney baseball team.’”
The CIAC Board of Control on Thursday also eased two other rules because of the pandemic’s interruption of the school year. Both are for one year only.
■Academic Eligibility: When determining eligibility for fall sports, any incomplete grades will be considered a passing grade until the end of the first marking period.■Transfers: Approved transfers who were due to sit out the requisite 50 percent of games in the 2020 spring season will be immediately eligible to participate in interscholastic sports, if otherwise eligible, once they resume.