There will be spring high school sports — if there is school.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's Board of Directors voted unanimously on Monday to establish an eight-week high school sports season, assuming that the state's schools reopen by May 4. All of these decisions stem from the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept through the Bay State and much of the rest of the United States.
Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker, last week, declared that May 4 was the first date that the commonwealth's schools could open up.
"Just to have some closure for seniors in particular, and the opportunity to get back to something normal," Mount Greylock girls track coach Brian Gill said, "would be awesome."
The Board of Directors held a conference call on Monday to discuss spring sports and items related to the potential start of a season.
"I think the MIAA has done a great job through this whole thing," Wahconah softball coach Dustin Belcher said Monday afternoon. "In terms of giving our athletes something to shoot for and look forward too. I was really pleased to see they made the decision they did."
The Board voted 19-0 to approve an eight-week season from May 4 until June 27, with a June 28 rain date. That schedule would include regular-season games and potential tournament contests. There would be a potential range of eight to 12 games in order to qualify for potential post-season tournaments.
"To me, it's a priority to maximize as much playing time and games as possible for as many students as possible," said Wahconah athletic director Jared Shannon, a member of the MIAA's Tournament Management Committee. "I'm less worried about running a state championship game and more concerned about getting as full a season as possible — and then running some kind of a tournament."
The board also voted 19-0 to waive MIAA rule 58.1. Now, the MIAA will allow individual schools and districts to determine eligibility standards for athletes — for this season only.
One other item was approved, but by a much more narrow margin. By a 10-9 vote, sub-varsity and non-tournament teams can also continue to play games or compete until the June 27 cutoff date.
"It makes us feel really good," Hoosac Valley girls lacrosse coach Molly Meczywor said. "My team has a Facebook page. We're doing some Zoom workouts and workout challenges and gratitude challenges, and just touching base. At least this gives us a little bit of hope."
The first day of practice would be May 4, with games in most sports beginning on May 11. The spring golf season, for girls' leagues, would require only three days of practice before competition would begin. No Berkshire County schools have spring golf.
Of course, this is all contingent on whether school opens on May 4 or not. If there is no school, there will be no sports seasons.
Szofia Lewis is one of three senior captains, along with Madison Tobin and Jordyn Lummus, on the Pittsfield High School softball team. Just to hear that there could be light at the end of the tunnel with a possible spring sports season made Lewis happy.
"I think that all of my teammates would be very happy if this happens," she said. "My two fellow captains, we've been playing together since we were 10 years old. I think, just even having two months to play would be a present for all of us, and we'd be so happy that this could happen for us. I think everyone would just have an immense sense of gratitude if we were to have school and this would happen."
Shannon said that when the athletic directors meet, they'll have to figure out schedules for all of the spring sports, and particularly track and field. Do they go to dual meets or do they have carnivals where multiple teams compete in one day, say on Saturday? That'll be a question for the AD's.
The Wahconah athletic director said he has spoken with the captains of some of his school's spring sports, and he said they all have said that post-season sports is less critical than a regular-season schedule.
"They're not even concerned about a state championship," Shannon said. "They're concerned about, they want to play Pittsfield two more times. Our boys lacrosse team wants to play Greylock two more times. Those rivalry games, when you boil down to it, those are the things that matter the most.
"I don't think any of our teams are most concerned about playing in a state championship. They want to play the county schedule one more time."
Wahconah's Belcher said he can see both sides of that.
"Given the fact that the Western Mass. tournament has an expiration date of two years, I think having that opportunity for the kids is very important," he said.
For Pittsfield's Szofia Lewis, who she plays isn't nearly as important as whether or not she plays.
"I think we would just be grateful to play anyone at this point," she said. "If it happens that we can really only play inter-county games, I think everyone would be fine with that. To have one last game against Taconic would be awesome. To play our rivals Wahconah, I think we would really want something like that to happen.
"It would be cool to have a post-season of some sort. At this point, I don't think that's our greatest priority."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.