The likelihood of high school winter sports happening in Vermont this winter is uncertain.
Governor Phil Scott had delayed the start of winter sports after COVID case numbers began to spike once again in early November. Ute Otley, the CVU Women’s Basketball coach, has waited since then for Governor Phil Scott’s office to give the go-ahead on winter sports.
“We’re waiting to hear from the governor. I think we’re still hopeful, but, based on the coronavirus numbers over the last couple days my guess is that, you know, our start date is going to get pushed back at least two weeks. So, maybe December 14 if we’re lucky” said Otley.
Scott was “cautiously optimistic” that virus cases would subside, though he said it was too early to know if restrictions can be lifted.
“It looks as though there have been changes in behavior that will hopefully lead to fewer cases than projected. It’s too early however to know exactly how many people kept their Thanksgiving get-togethers small and what impact holiday travel will have. But with this initial data and the lower daily cases we’re seeing I’m feeling cautiously optimistic,” Scott said on Tuesday.
This past Monday, Nov. 30, would’ve been the normal start of tryouts in a typical year, but they’ve had to postpone, Otley said. Holiday travel is part of the reason for the delay and the hope is that students who travelled for Thanksgiving will have a chance to quarantine before tryouts.
For CVU senior, Catherine Gilwee, this will be her last year of high school basketball, and she’s hopeful that there will be a season eventually.
“I am anxious about our season, because of how uncertain everything is right now, and because every date that the Governor has set as a start date has unfortunately been pushed back. I am trying to stay optimistic and hopeful, but it has been hard with the recent increase in covid cases,” said Gilwee.
The delay will add some new challenges to preparations for the season, and players will probably be more rusty than a usual season. In a normal year students would be in the school’s gym throughout November, playing pick-up games to be ready for tryouts.
“We normally have a summer basketball program and I see kids play with their AAU teams in the spring and they play pickup in the fall, so I usually have all of this information about my kids in my head before we even start the actual season,” said Otley.”This year, I haven’t been able to see any of the incoming freshmen compete against any of the upperclassmen.”
Gilwee has been doing her best to stay ready for the season despite the delay.
Gilwee said, “I’ve been doing a lot of cardio, weight lifting, and basketball skill work. Also, our CVU program has done a couple of zoom workouts to try and stay connected!”
Now the start of their season hinges on the Governor’s decisions and weekly COVID updates.
“What we’ve been told by our athletic directors is that, you know, every Tuesday the governor is going to hold a press conference, and he will decide when we can start the following Monday” said Otley.
If and when the season does get underway, there will be some changes from seasons past.
“The major difference will be that kids will be in masks all the time and that they’ll be added emphasis on, you know, keeping kids distributed around the gym, more than you would in a normal year,” said Otley.
“Aside from the obvious challenge of playing with a mask on, I think this season is going to be a big test of leadership,” said Gilwee.
In addition to the players wearing masks there will be no locker room access, meaning that players will show up ready to practice, and then leave immediately at the end of practice. This also means that parents won’t be able to send their kids in carpools, making getting to and from practice more complicated.
Players will also have to wear masks during games, and there will be no spectators allowed.
“That kind of takes care of the problem of worrying that your kids wouldn’t be able to hear you yelling through a mask,” said Otley.
Along with wearing masks, there will be many minor changes to help prevent the spread of the virus. Players sitting on the bench will have to be spaced out, and no one will share water bottles.
“It’s very hard to not know what next week looks like. I don’t know if I’m going to be busy between three and six every day next week, or not. And so I just have to kind of leave everything open and just hope that the numbers come down and we get to go” said Otley.
The Community News Service is a project of the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.