Connecticut Mulls 7-Man Football, Outdoor Volleyball

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Connecticut Department of Public Health officials have indicated that modified high school sports practices can resume after a week-plus hiatus prompted by coronavirus concerns, but the fate of football and girls' volleyball remains up in the air.

In a letter sent to Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference officials this weekend, DPH commissioner Deidre Gifford wrote that she “encourages CIAC to work with their coaches, athletic directors, and board members” to make changes that would lower the risk level of football and volleyball, including moving volleyball outside and only moving forward with a seven-on-seven football style that would not involve tackling or line play, as reported by the Hartford Courant. The change to football, if approved, would significantly reduce close contact and reduce the sport to a “moderate risk” level, based on national guidelines.

“As we have said previously, in contemplating your fall sports plan it is important to balance the real and significant benefits of high school athletics for student health and well-being, with the competing demands of establishing an optimally safe environment for our school communities,” Gifford wrote. “With that in mind, DPH’s recommendations do not reflect a need to abandon the idea of having any fall interscholastic athletic activities this year.”

DPH publicly released its latest guidance, which includes moving forward with soccer, cross country, girls swimming and field hockey. Athletes in these sports were allowed to resume non-contact conditioning on Monday with non-contact practices beginning in cohorts of 10 Saturday. Local school boards, superintendents and health departments can still make their own decisions about athletics, but the CIAC board of control also determined Sunday that if an outbreak forces any fall sports season to be canceled, it will not be played at a later time during the school year.

“Nothing is canceled at this point,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said. “We will continue those conversations with DPH this week as we finalize our timeline for full team practice.”

The start of the full contact practice and games is still up in the air, as more school districts have moved their starting dates back last week. Originally, the plan was to start full contact practice Sept. 10 and games Sept. 24. DPH preferred not holding activities until two weeks after school started, but the start date varies by district.

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