Winter Sports Are Back!!! Indians Returning to Action in February

CLOSING IN - On a 2021 season are Ryan Magee (10) and his Watertown-Pomperaug ice hockey teammates. The Indians (who will practice and play their home games at the Shelton Twin Rinks), as well as the rest of programs in ther state, received the go-ahead to begin practices this week with a targeted opening the week of February 8. 

WATERTOWN - High School sports are back; for how long is anyone’s guess, but that’s for down the road. As was expected, the CIAC’s Board of Control at a meeting at it’s Cheshire headquarters on January 14, members reviewed and approved the organization’s Winter Sports Plan. While the first practice date for winter sports set for January 19, a number of programs and towns are moving at a deliberate pace; one of them is Watertown High School, where athletic director Paul Catuccio is putting caution and safety well ahead of just throwing basketballs, pucks and balance beams out without a plan.

“I’m happy that we’re getting back to having games, very happy for the kids - especially the seniors - but there’s so much we have to get in order in a relatively short period of time, that we have to exercise caution and make sure everyone is protected and safe,” said Catuccio.

“We have to get paperwork in order, get everyone tested and set up protocols...get schedules in order, transportation...it’s a tall order,” Catuccio added. 

The target date for the Indians’ winter sports teams such as basketball, ice hockey, boys swimming and diving and gymnastics to begin preparing is Monday, January 5 with a targeted starting date of Monday, February 8. Twelve regular season games will be permitted in girls and boys basketball, boys ice hockey, girls gymnastics and boys swimming.

Boys and girls indoor track teams will be limited to practice with indoor/outdoor meets considered no earlier than March.

While there will not be any CIAC-sponsored state tournaments in order to get as many games in as possible, a ‘postseason experience’ similar to the ones conducted in fall sports will be allowed from March 15-28.

For WHS, those ‘experiences’ will be championships at the league (NVL) level.

While the green light was given to several sports, some others weren’t as fortunate, as wrestling, competitive dance and competitive cheerleading, classified by the Connecticut Department of Public Health as high-risk activities, will be limited to small group conditioning and non-contact skill building under the CIAC plan.

The low-risk sports of sideline cheer (no stunting, lifts, or tumbling) and exhibition dance (no lifts, stunting, or tumbling) will continue, provided participants wear masks and formations maintain six feet of distance between athletes.

Assuming community metrics continue an appropriate downward trend and athletic activities are not impacting in-person learning, interscholastic in-state competitions will begin in early February.

There will be a different look to everything, as these are not normal times and these will not be normal seasons.

“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 CIAC plan stated.

Don’t plan on attending games, fans.

“The CIAC position on fan/spectator attendance is that fans should not be allowed at interscholastic contests or practices,” the plan read, and Catuccio is on-board with that. “We can’t take chances, so attendance will be limited to essential game personnel,” Catuccio said.

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.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that; instead let’s hope that the winter sports season leads to a seamless transition to spring sports.

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