With football looking at a so-called “sandwich season” in late February, the rest of the W-H athletic season is planned to begin Friday, Sept. 18, Athletic Director Bob Rodgers said in briefing the School Committee, on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Competitive cheerleading has also been rescheduled, according to MIAA safety guidelines.
“We are very fortunate at Whitman-Hanson to be part of the Patriot League,” Rodgers said. “We’re like-minded schools, putting the safety of the kids first, but we also recognize that this is a very stressful time for students.”
He said that, whether a student’s outlets are drama, music, art or athletics, they need “some semblance of normalcy.”
The Patriot League’s athletic directors have been meeting on a nearly weekly basis, creating what they are calling a “Patriot League bubble” — which sees each team play only other schools within their division of the league. Two exceptions will be in girls’ sports, playing a single game vs Notre Dame of Hingham in soccer, volleyball and field hockey because that school does not have enough other opponents. To maintain Title IX balance, the boys’ soccer team will play North Quincy.
Safety measures governing crowd size and the requirement for face masks for players on volleyball and soccer teams, could evolve later on. The end date for spring sports — which starts on April 26 would be July 3.
“If we were to have some outbreak of coronavirus, we would be able to do some really good contact tracing because we will know who we’ve played,” Rodgers said.
He acknowledge that some people are unhappy that there will not be a state tournament in the fall, adding there might be one in the winter or spring if conditions improve.
“This really isn’t about championships,” Rodgers said. “It’s not about banners in the gym. It’s about giving kids participation, allowing them to be a part of something.”
He said the 11-12 game season will be about being able to play their sport, not about winning. When that shortened season is over, teams will play for what is being called the Patriot League Cup with play concluding no later than Nov. 20.
Rodgers estimated that teams would play two games a week with, perhaps more Saturday games in the past because transportation is going to be a “major issue.”
He also indicated that between the budget situation and ongoing cost of PPE and other coronavirus-related expenses, that he would return to the School Committee Sept. 9 to speak in-depth about user fees.
“We don’t pay much for athletics in W-H,” he said. “Our athletics are funded by the fundraising we do, through our user fees and through our gate receipts.”
Well-attended games and the resulting gate receipts pay for — among other things — ice time for boys’ and girls’ hockey, but with crowd limitations due to social distancing regulations, gate receipts will be reduced this year.
While the number of games are reduced, some schools are increasing user fees.
“I’m not going to ask this committee to raise the user fee, but I do want to keep it exactly where it is,” Rodgers said. He does, however, want to adopt a sliding scale refund policy in the event of games or season cancellations.
Coaches have also been offered the opportunity to take a leave of absence without the fear of losing their position if they are concerned about teaching job responsibilities or health issues.