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An update on the fall High School sports season

Tom Petty may have said it best when he released his 1981 hit song, “Waiting.” How does it go? “Waiting is the hardest part.” I promise it sounds a lot better when I sing it in the shower. Anyway, last week, the Maine Principals Association released its updated guidelines and start dates for fall athletics in Maine.

Like everything else during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s subject to change, but the gist of the document was that the fall sports preseason would move ahead three weeks to September 8th.

The rationale, and a good one as far as I’m concerned, is that we need to get kids back in the classrooms before assembling them on the playing fields. It still allows for the summer conditioning workouts and more sports specific training over the coming weeks, but it’s more to get these student-athletes back in shape after away.

So, what does this mean? Let’s pretend that we don’t have any significant outbreaks over the next six weeks, and we can start on September 8th. That gives our coaches and student-athletes two weeks to get ready for games. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but let’s face it, several of these kids have been working out and playing, whether on their own or with friends, just not under the supervision of their coaches, so the short preparation time may not be terrible.

Outside of that, there is a call for a more regionalized schedule, a shortened regular season, and for further discussion on what postseason play would entail. All good so far.

The hope is to finish in late October and early November, as usual, if everything can go as planned, setting the stage for winter sports to start on time, which is a whole different ballgame because now we have the dreaded word “inside.”

I like inside in the winter. It’s warm and comfortable, but COVID-19 and other various viruses and illnesses thrive on “inside.” So what will that look like? I wish I had the answer for you.

I want high school students back in the classroom when it is safe to do so. Selfishly, I want high school sports to happen this year as I have the opportunity to coach a special group of basketball players this winter. I want them to see success in the classroom and on the courts and fields, but as someone told me at a young age, no one really cares what I want.

With that said, I just cross my fingers (after washing my hands) and hope for some silver lining with school this fall and winter. If we can have regional schedules, regional tournament play, and some sort of normalcy, that’s all I want. There I go again with my wants.

In closing, if you’ve even watched the movie Hoosiers, late in the fourth quarter of the regional finals, Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) breaks the huddle, but one of his players, Strap, stays on a knee, praying for a second, during a very close game. Coach Dale taps him on the hand after a moment and says, “make it a good one.” So if you believe in that, make it a good one for high school sports. And while you’re at it, say one for me too. I could probably use the help.

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