Good morning and Happy New Year to all! In the year 2021, just like in year’s past, there will be good and bad circumstances, and hopefully we will not be defined by them. We need to constantly count our blessings and work to overcome the things that don't necessarily go our way. The upcoming year will be more of what you do to make it a good one, rather than what it brings to you.
Last week I refreshed our memories of what the bulk of 2020 was from a sporting perspective but I failed to mention some local other sporting events that took place in the midst of lockdowns and other restrictions. The Cal Ripken had a successful season and the Berlin-Gorham Babe Ruth baseball team had a great season while garnering a second place finish in the state tournament. Some local recreation soccer programs took place and the Groveton race track was busy also during the summer. My apologies for forgetting them.
According to the story put out by Roger Brown of the Union Leader, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has setCOVID-19 protocols for basketball this winter. Some of those include regional schedules, (much like they did for fall sports), a cap on spectators as well as open post-season tournaments. In addition, masks will be worn by the athletes during play, but the mandatory mouth guards that were pushed heavily and required for safety reasons years ago are now not being required because of the danger of spreading germs. According to the article, the rules, including spectators and others, will vary from school to school and from division to division.
There will be no "swing" players from junior varsity to varsity, the bench situation will include players being spread out or staggered. You can check the NHIAA website for a list of those recommendations by the National Federation of High Schools that will hopefully create and keep the atmosphere safe for all. They have even eliminated jump balls and in some divisions there will be no preseason scrimmages.
Other NHIAA sanctioned winter sports, few of which are part of our local sports, such as indoor track, swimming/diving, bowling and gymnastics have had to make major adjustments also. In an article written by Alex Hall of the Union Leader, the indoor track season was canceled, so some schools have established outdoor training or intramural clubs, while swimming will have time trials, virtual meets and small duel meets.
The regular season for gymnastics will be shortened and they are still working on what the state meet will look like, as will the spirit programs.
Bowling teams will be limited in the number of people they can bring to each meet and will bowl in different "pods", along with other restrictions.
Skiing will have their meets but with a cap of 80 athletes allowed with social distancing, plus their season will last less than a month.
NHIAA Executive Director Jeff Collins said, "We have to be realistic with what's going on in the state, what can happen, but we can't give up on the fact kids need these opportunities."
Tom Powers, the gymnastics' committee chairman, said, "It's a challenge, I think we all realize that, People have the right perspective — do everything we can to get as much of the season in as possible."
Thankfully both of these men, along with the rest of the New Hampshire high school sports' personnel, including athletic directors and coaches know that kids have to be active in sports-related programs and are doing their upmost to make it happen in the best way possible.
The mask requirement has generated discussion and division throughout the country, and wearing them while involved in sporting competition is no exception. There are those who feel it is so important as it will prevent the spread of viruses and protect all involved that is has been made mandatory throughout many schools, sporting teams, cities and countries. There are conflicting reports on the effectiveness of masks but the hope is they are doing enough to help combat the spread of the virus.
Also, normal breathing through a mask prevents sufficient oxygen from getting to the brain, so what will happen when kids who are under extreme physical exertion trying to get that needed oxygen, only get a little with lots of carbon dioxide? That can cause headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, fatigue and other issues.
People have also said that, "people will get used to wearing the masks", others will say, "true, but the brain is still not getting sufficient oxygen to function normally." As Dave Chase, Pinkerton Academy basketball coach stated, "You ask these kids, 'Hey, we're not going to have a season or wear a mask', I don't think any kid will say, 'I don't want to play.”
Adjustments have been and will continue to be made, which for the major ones, will hopefully be temporary and not have too many long-term effects. Some of the more minor changes might actually be good and could become the norm.
Don't you just wish we could wave a magic wand over it all, make it go away and get back to some form of "normalcy?” In the meantime, do the best we can to overcome the circumstances we face in the best ways we know!
Have and make it a great day, Walter and Crystal Hansen!