The CIAC released its guidance for the fall sports season last week and the changes from last fallâ€™s heavily restricted sports season are evident.
After playing localized and shortened seasons in 2020 that ended with a short postseason against the same teams, this year returns a full season for every sport. Following a fairly smooth spring season that featured complete seasons from teams competing across the state, the 2021 fall sports plan features similar rules, but focuses on vaccination against covid-19 as its main way of keeping students safe. With new rules in place regarding vaccination, local athletic directors are spreading the recommendation to get vaccinated as shared by the CIAC and Department of Public Health.
â€śRight now we have a really good understanding of what the best approach is to dealing with the issue and that is to try to get as many people as vaccinated as possible,â€ť New Britain athletic director Dave DeFronzo said. â€śGiving our student-athletes as many opportunities to get vaccinated as possible, I think thatâ€™s the different place that weâ€™re in from August 2020.â€ť
The CIAC is encouraging all eligible students to get vaccinated and updated the rules around covid exposure to reflect the effectiveness of the vaccines. Fully vaccinated students and staff will not be required to quarantine if they are asymptomatic after being in close contact with someone who tested positive for covid while unvaccinated people will have to quarantine for at least seven days.
Anyone showing symptoms of covid will be required to quarantine and the CIAC recommends all unvaccinated personnel get tested weekly.
â€śItâ€™s all about safety at the end of the day,â€ť St. Paul athletic director Dave Dennehy said. â€śCredit to DPH and CIAC, last year they were having to manage it and live it in the moment. Now they have the ability to have a little more history with it and lay out guidelines and have everyone prepared.â€ť
As an indoor sport, Girls volleyball will still require masks while playing and girls swimming will also need masks worn when outside the pool. All participants in outdoor sports do not need to wear masks, including football, which returns to Connecticut after not being played last year.
â€śThe bottom line is if youâ€™re vaccinated and asymptomatic, youâ€™re going to be on the field a lot longer than if you werenâ€™t vaccinated,â€ť Berlin athletic director David Francalangia said. â€śThereâ€™s enough literature out there for people to get an idea if they want the vaccine or not.â€ť
After a school year that featured sports being canceled consistently, athletic directors are focused on how to revert back to when forfeits and postponements were the outliers. With vaccination being the most effective and quickest way to ensure a smooth season, it is in their best interest to get as many student-athletes vaccinated as possible.
â€śOur coaches have been continually pushing the importance of getting vaccinated,â€ť DeFronzo said. â€śThe school district has worked in conjunction with the local health department to have vaccine clinics made available in the school parking lot on a weekly basis over the summer. In the next week and a half weâ€™re going to have additional vaccine clinics available and weâ€™re hoping to also provide opportunities for free covid testing.â€ť
Another difference from last yearâ€™s fall season will be an increase in spectators, after limiting road fans and almost all contests. But as sports continue to move back to how they looked before the pandemic, the message will remain that vaccination is the premier defense against worsening the spread of covid.
â€śThe big game-changer here is vaccinations,â€ť Dennehy said. â€śThe ability for student-athletes to get vaccinated and protect those around them and be in school in person, that creates some leeway for them from an exposure standpoint, you wonâ€™t have whole teams being knocked out and quarantined. The more student athletes get vaccinated, the less impact theyâ€™re going to have in their respective sports.â€ť
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.