At this time last year, the excitement from the fall season CEESA tournaments was just wearing off and students were gearing up for winter sports. But things look a bit different 12 months later.
Yesterday, the Romanian government announced an extension to the 30-day school closure, implemented on November 9th, leaving us all to wonder: when will we be able to go back to campus? And, just as important: when will sports season start up again?
Planning Proves Difficult, but the Athletics Department Remains Hopeful
AISB Athletics Director David Hughes and his department have been planning ways to hold sports events since the beginning of the year, but it’s been challenging. “We obviously have to look at each sport individually,” he says.
Lower risk sports, which include sports that are played outside and those more individual, will come back first, once we return to campus. Hughes explains that “We are looking at how we bring the training sessions back staggered. For example, cross country is a lower-risk sport, so that will be the first sport that we introduce. Football is a relatively low-risk sport, so we will introduce that as well, but training won’t be as it used to be.”
In terms of indoor sports such as basketball, the athletics team does not know when they are going to come back. They are still planning and thinking about the precautions for when these sports do return. The athletics team is looking at how equipment and indoor spaces can be used safely while playing sports. According to MYP Coordinator and Middle School Basketball Coach Andy Pontius, students will most likely have to bring their own equipment for practice.
Since the fall season was canceled, Hughes explains a possible way to make up for missing sports such as volleyball and football. “We obviously will be addressing the situation week on week; if it looks like we are back to a normal schedule by March, then we will start volleyball as a spring season sport for high school as well as for middle school.”
What Sort of Restrictions we can Expect
When sports do eventually start again there will have to be restrictions to ensure safety. For example, Hughes says “it will start very individualized, focusing on skills and fitness.”
As for masks, athletes will most likely be allowed to take off their masks while they play, as wearing facial coverings while performing sports can cause health risks. Thicker masks can limit oxygen intake, which is crucial during exercise. And if the body does not receive enough fresh oxygen, this affects the oxygen saturation in the blood and can cause weakness, dizziness, or general discomfort.
In terms of social distancing, this is where things get tricky. AISB has been diligent about implementing rules to keep everyone two meters apart, so navigating this requirement while attempting to bring back team sports is something that has made planning difficult.
How Likely it is for CEESA to return
Unfortunately, Hughes says, “We are still unsure when CEESA will return. It is highly unlikely that anything will happen in the winter season and the spring season seems a long way off.” CEESA is most likely ruled out for the rest of the year, but Hughes hopes to get “training sessions up and running safely as soon as possible.”
If CEESA was to return, Hughes states that it would probably have restrictions such as “feasible travel to other schools by buses, such as Sofia, Istanbul, Belgrade, and Skopje. Additionally, in the first instance of CEESA’s return, teams will stay at hotels (instead of home-stays).”
Hughes mentions that they are looking into having “in-house competitions” towards the end of the year, like last year’s basketball tournament.
What Other Schools are Doing
At The American International School of Vienna (AISV), Altea M actually started off the fall season playing volleyball. “We weren’t required to wear masks, although to limit contact with other schools and players there were no games throughout the season,” she says. AISV has recently gone online, so after school sports are now on hold.
In Canada, Julia F is still learning in-person and playing basketball at King’s-Edgehill School (KES). For after-school sports, she says, “The teams are still the same size and both indoor and outdoor spaces can be used. Depending on the sport, masks may have to be worn when playing games, like in volleyball. Outdoor sports do not require masks though.” Julia explains that, “A lot of other schools in Nova Scotia have smaller teams than usual and contact within sports has been reduced. The provincial league is still happening but is likely shutting down soon with rising cases in N.S.”
Similarly, Copenhagen International School (CIS) is still open, and is continuing to run after school sports without many regulations. CIS student Luisa Z explains that, “Outdoor sports have been going on like normal for a long time now, and for indoor sports we are recommended to sanitize before and after practices. Other than that there is no social distancing or regulations.” While they have to wear masks at school, they “do not have to wear masks in the gyms.”
What Students Think
Most students have had a hard time this year; but for senior athletes in particular, not being able to participate in CEESA tournaments is extremely upsetting.
12th-grader Pius S. says, “CEESA is bigger than just a competition. CEESA to some is a motivation, a motivation to work hard to execute and achieve their goals, it brings schools together, gives students the opportunity to learn something new about themselves and meet new people doing it. Therefore, CEESA’s return is somewhat critical to a lot of our members in our school community.”
The uncertainty surrounding sports season is just one more challenging piece of a very challenging puzzle for students. Being on a team provides friendships, discipline, structure, and physical conditioning, and without this structure, many of our athletes are struggling.
It’s important for these students to make an effort to train themselves during these hard times, and remember that sports will come back. Unfortunately, we just don’t know when.
*Additional reporting by Emil S, Liza N, and Bella M. Special thanks to Mr. Hughes and Mr. Pontius for providing information for this article.
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