Allie Clark like all FCIAC athletes was looking forward to the spring season. Clark had a number of reasons to be excited: she earned all-conference honors as a sophomore for the Fairfield Ludlowe softball team, which was returning most starters and poised to contend with St. Joseph and Trumbull for the league title.
“This was our first year in a while where we had a bunch of seniors and I’ve been playing with the seniors for six or seven years now,” Clark said.
Enthusiasm turned to concern when the coronavirus led to the closing of schools and the CIAC’s decision first to cancel the end of the winter season and than postpone the start of the spring schedule. Gov. Ned Lamont’s comments during a radio interview today that schools likely would not reopen until the fall caused an added sense of despair for players, coaches and administrators anxious for any rays of hope.
“We’ve been trying to hold out as much hope as we can,” Clark said. “We’re still texting every day in our group chat as if we’re going to have a season at some point. Just not having closure with the seniors now is really unsettling.”
A pandemic unprecedented in modern times has disrupted all aspects of everyday life. And sports, normally a fun and needed escape, are just something else being taken away from the those that participate in the FCIAC’s seven sanctioned and several other club sports.
Greenwich boys lacrosse coach Bobby Lutz would normally have his roster set now, getting ready for the first scrimmages in anticipation of the start of the season, which was originally scheduled for a week from Saturday.
Lutz’s role right now is unlike anything he has experienced.
“We have a schedule set up and we do a wall-ball challenge and workout challenge,” Lutz said. “Everything is an individual workout but we’re trying to keep track of it as a group so they can compete against each other and make it a little bit more fun that way. The parents are thanking me because I’m sure, like my kids, they are sitting on the couch on the phones all day. They can tell them to go outside but when their coach tells them to go outside they take it a little more seriously.”
Athletic directors, accustomed to juggling a number of responsibilities, find themselves with unexpected — and unwanted — downtime. Many are using social media to encourage students to work out and stay in shape the best they can while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“Just sit and wait,” said Doug Marchetti, the athletic director at Norwalk. “You look at the phone, you look at Twitter and see what announcement the governor makes. His announcement today really puts you in a place where you’re wondering what’s going to happen.”
While there is no official date when games would have to begin to justify having a partial season, most agree, with the CIAC mandating 10 days of practice before play begins, it would have to be around May 1.
“That is about the halfway point and you could get about eight to 10 baseball games in, three to four track meets and six to eight lacrosse games,” Marchetti said. “I think teams would be happy just to get that but if there’s one more delay then it’s not going to be feasible from a time standpoint. Time is really becoming of the essence.”
FCIAC commissioner Dave Schulz last night gave league hockey coaches next year’s schedule — there will be more head to head play between Division I schools — and earlier finished the boys basketball schedules.
Schulz said there have been conversations about a partial-season schedule and playoffs, but it is all theoretical and dependent on if and when schools reopen.
“We have thought out plans, but until you have a date there’s nothing you can put on paper,” Schulz said.
The postponement has affected athletes in other ways, like recruiting. Clark was planning on making an early impression before the summer travel season begins.
“It’s really hurting recruiting for juniors in every sport,” Clark said. “We have two of our biggest tournaments early in the summer for recruiting. That would really hurt me personally. Not having a spring season would really hurt for getting warmed up and personal awards that set you apart from the rest.”
For now, much of the FCIAC athletic community shares Lutz’s mindset.
Asked if he has come to terms with the likelihood there would be no spring season, Lutz said, “I can’t accept that yet. Mentally I can’t. It’s there, it’s in the back of my mind. I’m a realist and I look at the facts but it is just so sad. It’s sad for the kids, the parents, the fans, the coaches. I’m trying not to think of it but each time you get one more piece of information from the news it looks less and less likely. You can’t say it’s over until it’s over.”