ORR athletics prepping for winter sports

Dec 8, 2020

MATTAPOISETT — While the fall season was pushed into February for coronavirus concerns, Old Rochester Regional High School athletes may be able to compete this winter. If it does happen though, Athletic Director Bill Tilden said that “sports are definitely going to look different.” 

On Nov. 20, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association announced that basketball, ice hockey, swimming and diving, gymnastics and skiing can play in the winter season. The start date for the season across the state was bumped up to Dec. 14.

Tilden said that ORR will plan to have a basketball, swimming and ice hockey season this year.

Depending on the sport, rules and gameplay will have to be changed. 

For basketball, there can only be 15 players on a roster and 3 coaches. Because of school bus capacity constraints for travel games, Tilden said he’s limiting it to 12 players. 

Players will also have to constantly sanitize their hands, huddles have to be socially distanced, and everyone has to be masked. 

In basketball, the mask “limits eyesight much more than people think,” he said.

Masks won’t be as big of an issue for hockey, as players already wear a lot of personal protective equipment.

For this sport, Tilden’s concern is the bench area. When breaks are taken for ice cleaning, “where do they go?” he asked.

Because the bench area is so small, he said athletes will have to sit in the bleachers until it's time to substitute in, at which point they’ll go into the box.

For fights for the puck in the corner of the rink, Tilden said there will be a quick whistle to call the play dead.

Space constraints get even more complicated for swimming.

Tilden said swimmers will have to get on a starting block with a mask, take it off, put it in a bag, and another person has to walk it to the other side of the pool for when the swimmer in the water gets out. A task like this will be difficult because the space around the pool is small.

“How do you keep them six feet apart?” Tilden asked. 

Because of spacing, he said some meets will be held virtually, and swimmers will compete in time trials against other competitors.

For now, this rules out having fans attend.

“Our focus is to play as safely as we can,” Tilden said, adding that the school needs to figure out how playing games will work, and then focus on bringing fans in if it works.

Because there are multiple levels of sports, more time has to be built in for sanitization between games.

For basketball, Tilden said all four sets of bleachers need to be sanitized before the next set of teams can come into the gym. What was an immediate transition from one game to the next will be an hour break between games. 

If someone on a team contracts covid, the team and players will all need to be quarantined. And with a team sport, both the home and away teams will have to isolate as well.

“Our goal is to get our kids to be able to play,” Tilden said. “Right now, we’ll take anything we can get.”

The ORR School Committee will vote for an approval to play winter sports at its Dec. 9 meeting.