Gloucester approves fall sports season



Attention GHS athletes! The Gloucester School Committee approved a fall athletics season for golf, cross country, soccer, and field hockey.  

After other Northeastern Conference schools decided to have a fall athletics season, the Gloucester School Committee held a meeting Wednesday night to discuss the issue again.

The late decision was due to the lack of readiness to have a season, which required another meeting. “The principal and athletic director didn’t think they had enough information to vote yes or no, we didn’t discuss it with the superintendent as well as the school committee,” said Gloucester School Committee member Kathleen Clancy. 

Many public health directors agree that holding a season with protocols can happen safely, based on the rate of COVID-19 transmission in Massachusetts. Gloucester department of health director Karin Carrol said her department along with those in surrounding communities are in support of a season.

“The department of education, DESE, the department of public health, as well as the local health department would support any in all of these organized activities with the guidance provided by the state.” Carrol said. Many agree that athletics have positive effects on kids’ physical and mental health. “These things are all good for kids, we also know that exercise in particular, the arts as well have health benefits,” Carrol added.

Although Gloucester has been in the green and white regarding Coronavirus spread, extra measures will be taken to ensure the season happens smoothly. “Because our community has low community transmission rates, this allows us to play safely with proper protocols,” said Clancy.

The decision to hold a fall season comes with numerous logistical, financial, and public health considerations. 

The decision to hold fall athletics affects not only the school community, but the community as a whole.  The risk of spreading the virus to family and community members is a legitimate concern. 

“I have my fire, my police, my DPW, my city, my schools, it doesn’t just affect our schools, said Gloucester mayor, Sefatia Romeo Theken. “ It affects us all.” 

GHS athletic director, Brian Lafata expressed the need for sports in student life, but acknowledged the viable threat COVID-19  poses to our community. He emphasized the need for students and families to remain diligent about COVID-19 and sports. 

“My athletics employees are directly speaking to the individual athletes, expressing the seriousness of this.  If you aren’t feeling well, if you have shortness of breath, or you have a sore throat, you need to be honest with us because this is a serious situation. This is for the well being of everyone,” said Lafata. 

This decision comes with many new tasks for the athletic department, coaches, school nurses, and families. Mayor Theken was quick to assert her strong message of having everybody step up and do their part. “Your responsibility is to watch these kids, you’re going to babysit, and your coaches are going to babysit, because the teachers are trusting us to make the right decision.” said Theken. 

Teacher concerns

Many of Gloucester’s teachers have expressed concern over having students in their classrooms who participate in athletics. In a survey of GHS teachers, 44 percent said they felt soccer was either very unsafe or somewhat unsafe. And, 39 percent of teachers expressed concern over a field hockey season. On the contrary, 46 percent of teachers felt golf was very safe, and 41 percent said cross country was safe. 

Protocols and procedures

When the season begins, many protocols will be in place for athletes, coaches, and fans. The season will consist of ten games or matches for Soccer, Golf, and Field Hockey as Cross Country will run five meets. The athletic fee will remain the same due to budgeting conflicts and transportation. 

To make contact tracing easier, every team will compete against the same community that week. Fans will be permitted to GHS home games in a limited fashion. Each athlete would have two spectators socially distant in the bleachers.

If COVID-19 trends in the wrong direction, local athletic directors and community leaders will not shy from shutting the season down. “We have to pivot as information comes in from the state.” said Carrol. 

Many student athletes expressed gratitude and excitement around the committee’s decision. “We have been holding safe practices to prepare for the season,” said GHS senior and varsity soccer captain Owen Hardy. “We are very excited to have the chance to put our hard work to good use.” 

The athletic department and school committee, hope holding a season will also incentivize students to remain extra diligent around COVID-19 protocols ensuring the community is safe.