Marlborough School Committee approves winter sports guidelines and schedules

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By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer

Marlborough – Student athletes, coaches, and administrators have been on a roller coaster this school year as they have been waiting to see if there will be a winter sports season.  Following a detailed presentation from District Athletic Director Jeff Rudzinsky, the Marlborough School Committee approved final recommendations, guidelines, and schedules at its Dec. 8 meeting.

Boys and girls basketball, boys and girls hockey, gymnastics, swim, and dive teams will be held. However, indoor track is scheduled to move to a fall II season (estimated to be any time between February and April) and wrestling, considered “high risk,” is being moved to spring.

Middle School athletics will not be offered for the winter season following discussions and recommendations from Mid-Wach League athletic directors and school principals. They will reassess the spring season in the coming months.

Rudzinsky explained that Central Mass. schools have decided to continue to divide schools into pods based on “geography, league, and competitive balance.” Teams will only play within their pod, and teams will not participate in non-league games or scrimmages during the winter season. In addition, teams will play a shortened season of 10-14 games.

In his presentation, Rudzinsky explained that the high school will continue to provide busing to games as long as the transportation company can accommodate schedules. However, all teams will travel separately, wear masks, and there will be assigned seats, which means JV1, JV2, and varsity teams will not be on the same bus going to events. Families will need to provide transportation to and from all practices and to games/meets if a bus is not available.

Students and coaches will answer daily COVID-19 screening questions as was done in the fall.  Because spectators are not allowed at any of the sporting events, Rudzinsky said Marlborough “home” contests will be livestreamed on WMCT-TV or online. Discussions are being held as to what to do if a game is being played in another community in the pod.

Each sport has a series of specific safety protocols and guidelines included in a 16-page document that covered many details such as roster numbers and tryouts, frequency, and length of practices and game day management. With the “main focus continuing to be on the health and safety of all student athletes,” Rudzinsky emphasized that, “social and emotional health are also important.”

The administrators are also planning to come up with a plan for Senior Day recognition.

Swim teams will have their meets at their individual pools, and times/records will be submitted by each coach.

Basketball has an extensive set of safety guidelines that Rudzinsky was asked about during the meeting. The protocols included six feet distance between bench seats, assigned player seats, assigned and marked spots for each athlete’s gear, no jump balls, limited number of players for fouls shots, and “quick whistles” from referees if there’s too much congestion under the basket. He noted that Marlborough is fortunate to have a large field house and that he plans to have the doors opened and monitored for air circulation. There will be no half-time but rather two and a-half minutes between quarters for water and mask breaks.

The winter season runs from Monday, Dec. 14 through Sunday, Feb. 21; the earliest date for competitions is Friday, Jan. 8. Pre-season will run Monday, Dec. 14 to Thursday, Dec. 24. There will be a “grace period” from Dec. 24 to Sunday, Jan. 3 where limited practices can occur if decided upon by coaches. Practices are set to resume Monday, Jan. 4.

All guidelines are subject to modifications if health or safety conditions warrant.