EASTHAM — The Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) on Nov. 20 approved modified winter seasons for basketball, ice hockey, swimming and diving, alpine and Nordic skiing, and gymnastics. That means Nauset Regional High School’s basketball, hockey, and swimming and diving teams will compete this winter.
Wrestling, indoor track, and cheerleading and dance also normally compete in winter, but the MIAA moved them to different seasons, based on Covid-19 Task Force recommendations. Indoor track has moved to “Fall II,” scheduled for Feb. 22 to April 25, while wrestling and winter cheerleading and dance have been moved to the spring season, with no confirmed start and end dates yet.
The modified winter season at Nauset will start on Dec. 14, with all teams playing an 11- or 12-game regular season.
“The pandemic has reshaped the way education is delivered across the country, and the same can be said about its impact on athletics,” said MIAA president Jeff Granatino. He expressed confidence that student athletes and coaches would adjust to virus-driven regulations.
Just as those in fall sports did, winter teams will have to follow new guidelines during play and practice. For each sport, that means pages of strategy-changing rules.
Nauset Athletic Director John Mattson said he is excited about the season ahead. About the athletes, he said, “Once they adjust to the game modifications, they will be fine,” adding, “I believe the structure and organization that high school athletics provide is the best thing for our kids right now.”
Locker rooms will remain closed, there will be no benches allowed during play or practice, and masks and social distancing will be required during practice and games. If there are drills or workouts, then pods of 5 to 10 athletes must be formed and maintained during the season to make sure players are practicing with the same teammates.
Swimming and diving will have dual meets only, and swimmers will be allowed to take their masks off once they are on the starting block. No cheering will be allowed during swim races, and swimmers on the same team must race in the same three lanes, while swimmers from the other team will swim in the opposite three lanes. There will be no interaction between swimmers or coaches of different teams.
For ice hockey, players who are lined up opposing each other must be six feet apart and face in the direction of the face-off location, while players preparing for the face-off must also set up six feet apart.
Only one defensive and one offensive player are allowed to be in a scrum along the boards; a third participant in any scrum will cause an immediate stop in play by the official, and officials can stop play if a scrum lasts longer than five seconds.
Basketball players will be making major adjustments to their play. During games, the jump ball will be eliminated and instead a coin toss will be used to decide what team starts the game or an overtime period with the ball. To minimize the length of time opponents are face to face, officials will use a “five second rule” in which a player in his or her frontcourt may not control the ball for more than five seconds in an area enclosed by a screening teammate.
Officials will enforce the rule that defenders may not physically impede the progress of offensive players; they will quickly stop play if two players are close to each other and each has hands on the ball.
On all throw-ins, the defender must maintain a distance of six feet from the player inbounding the ball. In a regular game, defending inbounds closely is crucial to disrupting the pass or even stealing the ball. This is especially important late in games when one turnover can change the outcome.
But Nauset was able to adjust to the new rules during the fall season, with success on the field from soccer to field hockey to cross country.
“I think our winter teams will have a very similar experience,” Mattson said. What’s important, he said, is that students “get to play the sports they love with experienced coaches in a very safe, controlled environment.”
To register a student-athlete for a winter sport at Nauset, visit familyid.com/organizations/nauset-regional-high-school.