Lions trapped in the den: Intramural fall season

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Louise Kim, Staff Writer

Although the Ivy Preparatory School League decided not to operate its interscholastic fall athletics program, fall athletes will participate in a new intraschool athletics program, Director of Athletics, Health, and Physical Education Robert Annunziata wrote in the UD Athletics Reopening Plan and Protocols in an email sent on September 1.

“Although the decision to cancel fall interscholastic play was difficult for all of us who are passionate about the value of interschool competition, our coaches and staff are eager to start the fall 2020 season,” he wrote.

The season, which starts on September 23, will offer each sport as one all-inclusive program with no cuts or distinction between Varsity and Junior Varsity (JV) teams. “This combined critical mass of student athletes gives us the number of participants to provide competitive and spirited intramural play,” Annunziata wrote in the email.

The Reopening Plan states that each sports team will be divided into cohorts of five to 10 athletes. The socially distanced cohorts will be consistent day-to-day and different cohorts will not train together.

Coaches will review team-specific expectations, plans, protocols, and additional state guidelines during orientation meetings on September 14. The following five days will replace typical preseason practices. All athletes will participate in afterschool training sessions in their cohorts to build individual skills and cardiovascular conditioning and provide athletes and coaches with the opportunity to become familiar with the Reopening Plan. After completing the training sessions, teams will hold traditional practices. Coaches may choose A/B alternating day schedules to facilitate the need for practices and competitions or allow for another team to have full facility access, Annunziata wrote in the plan.

Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly wrote in an email that the athletic directors representing the Ivy League spent much of the summer considering the fall athletic season. By the last week in August, the majority of the schools did not believe that a fall interschool season was viable given the restrictions on physical education. 

“All involved agreed to go their separate ways in terms of how best to handle the various athletic programs and teams representing each school,” Kelly said. “In light of HM’s athletic success — virtual practices and team meetings — during the spring semester online, the decision was made to move forward with an intramural athletic program.” 

Volleyball player Clementine Bondor (10) is excited about the potential of the new sports program. “Overall, the most important part is the team spirit,” she said. “The excitement about the game isn’t going anywhere, nor is the ambition to drill and perfect skills, or the team support when someone reaches a goal toward which they’ve been working for a long time, and that’s what makes the game so incredible to watch and fun to play.”

The volleyball team met on Zoom on September 1 to discuss new protocol, such as wearing masks unless a match is in session, staggering practice times, and disinfecting equipment, Bondor said. “It’s reassuring to know that so much is being done to keep us safe, and I’m really grateful.”

Some of the downsides to the intraschool program are that players won’t have the opportunity to enjoy bonding trips at away games, play in other schools’ gyms, or see their friends at other schools, Girls Varsity Volleyball Coach Jason Torres said. Similarly, interschool tournaments were an opportunity for many coaches in the league to catch up with each other, but most coaches won’t be able to see each other for a long time, he said.

Athletes will also miss annual interschool traditions. This year, the Boys Varsity Soccer team was scheduled to play on Alumni Field during Homecoming, which would have given the players even more support from the crowd than usual, Jake Federman (12) said. Federman was excited to feel the crowd’s energy and potentially send the fans home happy by securing a win.

Jonas Jacobson (12), who was due to complete his football career as a senior, will focus on fostering a connection between upperclassmen and underclassmen, creating a sense of unity, and building a winning culture, he said.