The fall sports season, which will bring about the return of high school sports in Connecticut for the first time since March 9, kicks off in just one week, and for many local schools, fans will be able to be in attendance to celebrate the occasion.
Berlin and New Britain have both decided on allowing a limited number of spectators to its home games this season, for both outdoor sports and girls volleyball. New Britain’s policy is also expected to be implemented by other local schools like Plainville, Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central.
For both schools, only home spectators will be permitted, with Berlin allotting 3-4 tickets to each student-athlete to give to family members. For contact tracing purposes, fans will be required to bring those tickets to the game and sign the back of them to keep track of everyone in attendance, and once a freshman or junior varsity game ends, the stands will be fully cleared out before fans for the next game are allowed to enter.
Cross country won’t have the same policy since those meets are held at open venues, but there will be guidelines and cones laid out to show where parents and family members can stand to watch the event.
“I'm beginning to have meetings with parents via Zoom, and talking with them, it was well-received,” Berlin athletic director David Francalangia said of the school’s decision and its spectator guidelines.
The decision was one that had to be developed fairly quickly, with schools having been reopened for just two-plus weeks and the fall season beginning Oct. 1, when the Berlin boys soccer team will host Newington at Sage Park at 6 p.m.
“I think a lot of [athletic directors] are scrambling to come up with guidelines for their own venues,” Francalangia said.
Francalangia has had to do some more scrambling of his own with girls swimming, as Berlin does not have its own pool. Meets will all be on the road, and as of now, the consensus appears to be that teams will try for in-person meets without fans rather than the virtual structure that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference proposed in its most recent fall sports guidelines.
“All of the swim coaches want to compete in person,” Francalangia said. “They feel without fans and social distancing on the decks, it will be manageable.”
New Britain feels it has a manageable policy in place for its fall season, allowing no visiting spectators and just two relatives per each Hurricanes student-athlete. Special requests for close friends or non-family members will be brought to athletic director Len Corto, but the plan is to allow no more than two spectators per each student-athlete on the home team, a vast difference from March 9, when attendance at the New Britain boys basketball’s state tournament game against Wilton was limited to 100 people when the covid-19 outbreak first began to affect sports across the country.
“It's all for the safety of everybody,” Corto said. “We're trying to limit the possibility of transmission.”
Student-athletes will be sent a Google Sheet by the athletic department, and will then fill out the two relatives they will have in attendance for that game. Those names will be at the entrance to the home venue, whether it be Veterans Stadium or the New Britain High School gymnasium, to confirm everyone in attendance.
For girls volleyball, New Britain will have three sections of bleachers pulled out, the middle section reserved for spectators, and the other two for home and away teams, whether it be JV or varsity. Everyone in the stands will be required to wear a mask and be at least six feet apart.
Corto said he and other athletic directors within New Britain’s region of competition discussed the policy, and they all will likely be putting those same policies in order.
“All of the schools we're playing will have a similar policy,” Corto said. “We met and we worked on this together, and everybody ran it by their administrators.”
Newington announced earlier this week that there will be no fans allowed in attendance this year, while Southington was still working on confirming its plans for the fall season as of Thursday afternoon. St. Paul expects to have its final decision for spectators on Monday.