CIAC winter sports decision distressing, yet necessary


Infographic by Anastasia Thumser ’22

As of Nov. 17, the CIAC has postponed winter sports until Jan. 19, which can potentially be pushed back further depending on Connecticut’s COVID cases in the following months.

Anastasia Thumser ’22

It’s that time of year again to lace up my spikes, bond with fellow athletes over pre-race stress and sprint around various tri-state area tracks that share an identical rubber scent. No matter the results, meets are finished with exhilarated cheering and the reward of a pasta dinner. The adrenaline of a race is like no other, and rallying with teammates is the highlight of my day.
However, due to the spike in COVID-19 cases and Westport’s subsequent classification as a red town, winter sports are postponed until further notice. As of Nov. 17, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) proposed a statewide suspension of high school winter sports until Connecticut is out of the red zone, delaying all athletics until Jan. 19.
Though heartbreaking for athletes, spectators and school camaraderie, it is the right decision to hold off on the impending sports season for the sake of safety.
The severity of COVID-19 cases per town is measured on a color scale ranging from grey, to orange, to red, which represents areas of highest concern with 15 or more positive cases per 100,000 residents. This classification, along with a number of students and staff being forced to quarantine, led to Staples’ transition from hybrid learning to a full-remote model until Nov. 30 at the earliest, preventing students from attending school and partaking in extracurricular activities.
Given the postponement of in-person learning and the rapid increase in cases, prioritizing non-academic activities over students’ education and wellbeing would be irresponsible. As much as I value sports and hope for a return to normalcy, hosting athletic events is not realistic given the dangerous circumstances.
Even with the implementation of social distancing and masks, it’s practically impossible for meets or games to proceed in a COVID-safe manner. Thinking back to the indoor track meets held at Staples last year, with hordes of teams sprawled across the gym and parents on top of each other trying to catch a glimpse, I know that will be out of the question for the 2021 season.
Spectators can be eliminated to reduce the amount of people in a cramped space, but that doesn’t change the fact that inviting other teams onto campus while Connecticut COVID-19 cases increase on a daily basis is risky. Maintaining cautionary measures for Staples’ students is difficult as it is, without the added concern of monitoring other athletes’ COVID procedures when they enter the campus.
Extracurricular activities are crucial for students’ social and emotional health, and many look forward to their commitments outside of school as an escape from the stress of academic responsibilities and COVID-19. With that said, there are safer alternatives to winter sports that can achieve a similar sense of camaraderie and involvement, like virtual team workouts.
While sports are a vital part of the Staples community, in-person education is the first step in replicating a pre-COVID routine. Returning to the hybrid model should take precedence over other activities, and until it has been determined that attending school is safe, sports and extracurriculars should be on hold.
Navigating COVID’s disruptions on students’ everyday lives hasn’t been easy, and halting sports will add to the difficulty of adjusting to a COVID world. However, living in a pandemic requires flexibility and the preeminence of safety, and postponing the winter sports season until Westport is removed from its red classification is the best decision for the safety of coaches, athletes and their families.