WATERTOWN - Today is the day we should have the thus-far elusive answer to the much-asked question: Will there be a high school winter sports season for the student-athletes at Watertown High School and around the State of Connecticut? While the odds of finally getting things in motion have increased dramatically over the last week or so, the final go-no go decision will be made when the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) holds it’s Board of Control meeting at their headquarters in Cheshire.

If the thumbs-up is issued, teams can begin practicing on Tuesday, January 19 with a targeted start date of no earlier than Monday, February 1.

While the situation is fluid, serious momentum began towards a decision on January 8, when the Board of Control met to discuss recent communications with the state Department of Public Health, appraise the current level of in-person learning around the state, and review the COVID mitigating strategies contained in the CIAC Winter Sports Plan. 

The next day, the organization issued an “Initial Draft Winter Sports Plan,” and sent a memorandum to school officials seeking their thoughts.

DPH guidance has defined the various winter sports by three risk level categories (low, moderate, high) that will be able to play. 

Only boy’s swimming and diving is a low risk winter sport; moderate risk winter sports are basketball, ice hockey, gymnastics, and indoor track. 

The high risk winter sports are wrestling, competitive cheer, and competitive dance.

“For moderate and lower risk sports (basketball, ice hockey, gymnastics, indoor track), practices should begin no earlier than January 19,” the plan stated.

It went on, “This includes any team activities that involve group aerobic conditioning, sport-specific non-contact skill development drills, team practices, and/or intra-squad scrimmages. Assuming community metrics continue an appropriate downward trend and athletic activities are not impacting in-person learning, interscholastic in-state competitions should begin no earlier than February 1.

The outlook wasn’t as bright for other teams, however.  

“For higher risk sports (competitive cheer, competitive dance, wrestling), DPH does not recommend any activities beyond small group conditioning and non-contact skill building for the duration of the winter season.

“In addition, DPH recommends against the operation of traditional large, multi-school indoor track meets for the winter season, as well as any athletic activities involving out-of-state facilities, teams, or athletes at least through the months of January and February. We would like to re-visit the question of out-of-state athletic activities after February at a later date.”

If and when the assorted teams do together, strict protocols will be in place to help insure everyone’s safety, as “all participants, coaches, and officials will be required to wear a mask that completely covers the nose and mouth, and that is worn directly on the face, at all times including during active play,” the 30-page plan read.

Should everything fall into place, there is still one hitch: Don’t plan on attending games.

“The CIAC position on fan/spectator attendance is that fans should not be allowed at interscholastic contests or practices,” the plan read.

Other factors will also come into play, the plan acknowledged.

“We emphasize the situation is fluid and in a perpetual state of evaluation, as COVID health metrics and data in the state will continue to be closely monitored and the appropriateness of holding youth sport and/or interscholastic athletic contests can change at any time.

“We will continue to consult with our stakeholders and will adjust offerings as appropriate, including the suspension of interscholastic athletics, should the health metrics direct that action.”

In what has been a winter of discontent, we may finally be getting a winter ray of sunshine and hope, something for which everyone is long overdue.

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