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This February in Massachusetts can best be described by one word: winter.
But, despite the frigid temperatures and several inches of snow that have covered most Massachusetts lawns this month, this week marks the start of Fall.
Well, “Fall II” to be exact.
Welcome to Fall II!
After having their traditional Fall sports schedule shut down last fall, high schoolers across the state are finally getting the chance to play those Fall sports that typically take place during the months of September, October, and November.
The Fall II season was created by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association after state-wide Covid-19 restrictions and concerns forced the shut down of traditional high school fall sports that were deemed “high risk” for exposure. The Fall II, or “sandwich season” as some athletes are now calling it, was created to slide in between (or be sandwiched by) the traditional Winter and Spring high school sports seasons in the state. It’s not just football that has been impacted though. In addition to football, other sports like cheerleading, indoor track, and some basketball leagues were also moved to the new Fall II season. Massachusetts school districts also had the option to move sports such as cross-country, dance, golf, field hockey, soccer, swim and dive, and volleyball to Fall II if it made more sense for their district.
For almost 6 months, local high schoolers and their families have waited and looked for signs of hope that the new Fall II season would be able to happen. In households like mine where football is the preferred sport of our high schooler, the wait has been a challenge as athletes faced the possibility of missing an entire year of their favorite sport. But with high school sports leagues across the state demonstrating the ability to successfully complete their Winter sports season, there has been growing hope that this Fall II season will be a positive and fulfilling one.
It's football but different.
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Of course, preparing for Fall II football has been quite different than it typically is every Fall. There will likely be no hot days like there are in early September where sunburns and overheating are of primary concern. No, this season will likely feel more like the end of the traditional football season – with cold, wet, and dreary weather. Added to our mandatory equipment list for this special season were of course multiple types of masks to protect from Covid-19, including ones that permanently attach to the football helmets. Additionally, practice rules have been adjusted to limit physical contact and ensure social distancing. The day before the first day of practice found the athletic department needing to plow the field – something that has been a rarity in all my years parenting a football player.
Instead of a full schedule of games, my son will have just five games during this sandwich season and if any game gets cancelled due to weather or a Covid-19 exposure, there is no guarantee it will be made up. Time in the locker room is limited and heavily restricted. There will be no bus rides to and from games and stopping for dinner on the way home with the team. There will be no full stands on Friday nights to watch the varsity team play. There will be no homemade meatballs served by Freshman parents at varsity games to raise money for the athletic program.
So, what will there be?
My Freshman football player came home last night from his first day of high school football practice and despite being soaked and freezing form being in the winter rain for 2 hours, he was happy. He was finally back with teammates he’d been playing football with since he was in elementary school. He was finally back on the football field. He was finally able to see the possibility of playing high school football this school year.
It may not be the real Fall season, but Fall II is filled with possibilities and hope.
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