Governor’s office says Phase 3 plans won’t dictate fall sports

Staff Writer
Published: 7/8/2020 4:05:07 PM

As COVID-19 continues to dictate an ever-changing landscape for the state of Massachusetts, those winds of change have indeed trickled down to the sporting landscape. Phase 3 of Gov. Baker’s reopening plan began on Monday, and youth baseball and softball teams were officially allowed to begin playing games throughout the Commonwealth.

But what will the parameters involved with Phase 3 mean for the fall season?

Well, the reopening plan makes specific reference to the fact that this set of guidelines won’t be the law of the land come fall.

“This guidance will not govern fall K-12 and other youth sports activities,” the release said. “School and other youth sports activities guidance for the fall is currently under development and will be jointly issued by EEA and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.”

Still, the categorizing of sports into different “risk” levels has cast doubts on what things will look like in regard to high school sports come late August and September.

First off, activities were divided into four categories: Levels 1-4. Level 1 includes non-contact workouts and individual or socially distanced group activities. Level 2 allows for competitive practices such as team scrimmages. Level 3 allows for competitions, and Level 4 includes tournaments, where more than two teams compete in several games over a day or several days.

The reopening regulations divided sports into three different categories: low, moderate and high risk.

Low risk sports are allowed to participate in all four levels of activities. The state lists examples for low risk sports as batting cages, tennis, pickleball, swimming, catch, disc golf, golf, individual biking, surfing, horseback riding, individual sailing, fishing, hunting, motor sports and gymnastics.

Moderate sports can participate in Levels 1, 2 and 3. The state lists those sports as baseball, softball, crew/sailing (2-3 people in a boat), track and field, cross country, running clubs, team swimming, volleyball, dance class, fencing, field hockey and no-contact lacrosse.

High-risk sports are only allowed to conduct Level 1 activities. Those sports include football, wrestling, soccer, rugby, basketball, lacrosse, ice hockey, competitive cheer, martial arts, crew/sailing (more than 3 people in a boat) and ultimate frisbee.

Gov. Baker acknowledged that the state is adapting to the challenges associated with reopening on a day by day basis, but things have been rapidly changing.

“I wish there was some way to avoid the bumpiness,” Baker said. “Unfortunately, I think because a lot of the guidances are pretty detailed and pretty specific, I think it requires a few days to absorb it and understand it. If people thought this guidance was late arriving, then that’s certainly on us.”

The state is expected to provide updates in a few weeks, but looking at that list, fall sports like football and soccer are considered high risk. What will that mean at the high school level?

Jeff Granatino, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) President for its Board of Directors, told the Boston Herald that the guidelines released on Monday should be looked at in a positive light.

“This is a real positive first step,” Granatino said. “Just for some summer activity, this has been something kids have been looking for. Slow and steady wins the race… I would hope this helps us for having sports in the fall.”

One area high school football coach said last month that he thought the chances of games being played in his sport this fall were “50-50.” Fall sports like cross country, golf, volleyball and field hockey are included in the list of moderate sports that are now able to play games. Will that still be the case come this fall? Will the MIAA create its own list of categories/guidelines? 

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito clarified on Tuesday that guidance from the state only pertains to summer sports for the time being. She said the state continues to work with high school associations such as the MIAA, as well as medical officials in hopes of drawing up plans for the fall.

“This is a challenging area,” Polito said. “Like industry reopening, sports also has levels of play as well as an assessment of risk associated with the individual sport activity.”

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