By Luke Canavan
FRAMINGHAM – Framingham High School plans to implement athletics for the first time this 2020-21 school year, with the of the MIAA Fall II season on February 24.
The Fall II season was especially created this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fall II sports include football, soccer, cross country, basketball, field hockey, golf volleyball, and swim & dive.
Athletic Director Paul Spear said they are trying to find other ways for sports teams to get together as well.
“We’re going to have out-of-season coaching with the sports that we missed, like winter [sports],” said Spear.
In terms of varsity, junior varsity, and freshman teams, things are still up in the air.
“It really depends,” said Spear. “I think there are going to be a lot of people that still want to sit out. There is going to be a level of difficulty, say for instance, running three football teams. I don’t think a lot of other schools are going to run three football teams. So we’re probably going to have two groups. For soccer, we’re probably going to run two groups. We’re [probably] not going to be able to run three.”
To determine who will be on which team, there will likely be talent evaluations at the beginning of the year, but they are not going to be nearly as extensive as they normally might be due to COVID restrictions.
“I think more than ever people are going to have to be forgiving in terms of making the distinction of ‘You’re Varsity and you’re JV,’ of who gets letters, and all these sorts of things. There is going to be a lot more of a gray area,” said Spear. “It’s not going to be the traditional type of season where coaches do long and hard talent evaluations at the beginning and make really difficult decisions. They may call it Group A and Group B, or Group 1 and Group 2. They may move kids back and forth, they may leave kids [where they are], but I don’t think anyone should worry about where they’re competing this year.”
Even after figuring out their own teams, Framingham still has to communicate with all of the other high school teams in the area in order to coordinate their schedules. To do this, Spear has had to build the schedules of certain sports in different ways.
“We’re in a pod with central Massachusetts teams. I was on a Zoom call with Millbury High School and Notre Dame Academy, who agreed to play us in girls soccer,” said Spear. “Our league didn’t compete in football, so we have a league schedule. Our league didn’t compete in volleyball because they couldn’t facilitate any indoor sports at all, so we have a built in volleyball schedule.”
While Spear has been able to fill up the schedules of some sports, other sports are proving to be a little more difficult.
“Butcross-country is a more difficult thing to do,” said Spear. “We don’t know what we’ll be able to do in terms of finding other teams that would like to compete against us. We’re going to have to get creative. We may have to compete virtually with Bay State Conference teams that have schedules from last fall,” said Spear.
In order to be eligible to play, students have to follow the COVID testing protocols set by the school.
Students will have to provide a negative COVID test result less than 72 hours before the start of their season.
“In addition, student athletes will be required to participate in the district student pool testing program starting March 1, 2021. As part of this program, they will be regularly tested when they are at school for in person learning. It is also strongly encouraged that student-athletes [continue] in the remote learning model participate in regular testing,” said the Framingham Flyer Athletics website.
With these newly-implemented COVID testing protocols comes something new for both the school and the players. Everyone has had to come together in order for it to work.
“It’s reimagined, everything you’ve ever thought of in high school sports,” said Spear.
Although it certainly has been an unusual and unruly year for athletics, Spear said it is important to stay focused on what this is really about.
“We’re trying to really keep it in the spirit of what it is, which is being together, getting a chance to maybe get a team photo, [and] getting a chance for kids to say goodbye to teammates,” said Spear. “Hopefully we can facilitate some kind of fun experience.”
It may not be a typical season for Framingham High School, but at least it’s a season, said Spear.
Luke Canavan is a spring 2021 SOURCE intern. He is currently a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studies Communication and English. He is passionate about film, television, writing, and literature, and upon graduation, he hopes to work in the entertainment industry full-time, where he can pursue his love for storytelling.