High school coaches, players gearing up for busy sports seasons

The official start of the school year is only a few days away and preseason for fall sports is back in full swing across western Massachusetts.
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 9:45 AM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The official start of the school year is only a few days away and preseason for fall sports is back in full swing across western Massachusetts.

“Just crossing our fingers and hoping we don’t have any interruptions,” said Springfield Public Schools Athletic Director Dwayne Early.

It’s been a while since student-athletes have been able to put on their uniforms without a mask, but soon, they’ll be back on the fields, courts, and rinks without an extra layer of protection against the coronavirus. According to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), there will be no COVID-19 protocols or procedures in place for the first time in three years.

“Last year, we were able to play full schedules and half of postseason and all that, but the season did start out without 50 percent maximum capacity for spectators. We also had to wear masks indoors. We had restrictions as far as using locker rooms and things like that,” Early added.

Early told Western Mass News they are hoping to avoid any major upticks in cases and finish out fall, winter, and spring, sports with no interruptions.

“We did have to pause for the winter for basketball. We had about a three week pause because there was a COVID outbreak in the city in Springfield Public Schools, so we did pause, but we were able to get back,” Early explained.

One of the teams impacted by the month-long pause was the Central High School girl’s basketball team and they are ready this year to get back on the court.

“It was definitely a worry when we had to take a break for a little while. We didn’t know if you were going to be back or not because they didn’t give us anything, we were just doing what we were told,” said Julie Bahati, a senior on the Central girl’s basketball team.

“We weren’t able to practice or anything, so we weren’t prepared when we came back,” added Sydney Dodds, a senior on the Central girl’s basketball team.

Bahati and Dodds are looking forward to leading their team on the court this time in front of a packed gym.

“Family being here because we were only allowed two people at a time, so family, friends, everyone that supports us will be able to come at once,” Dodds explained.

Their coach, James Gee, said although his team is resilient and ready for anything, “We have a lot of the returning players back and a lot of new kids coming in this year. The kids are anxious to back out on the floor and I think will be very competitive again this year.”

Adaptability is something Early told Western Mass News he has seen in all his athletes across the district.

“The kids have persevered these last few years. They met every bump in the road and adapted and modified what they do to practice schedules and stuff like that so for them to be able to get out there,” Early noted.