By: Danielle Rapsas
As COVID-19 cases spike, winter sports throughout New Jersey will be looking different this year. Social distancing guidelines, including the wearing of masks and following strict safety precautions, will be heavily enforced for everyone present during a winter sporting event. Governor Phil Murphy will make a final decision regarding winter sports in “Season 2” by November 20, 2020. As of November 15, 2020, winter sports are a go. The tentative start date for winter sports is December 3rd. Opening day is scheduled for the 21st of December. The regular season is set to end February 3rd and the end of the state tournament is scheduled for February 17th. These dates are subject to change until a final COVID friendly plan comes out for all sports. Athletes of JCHS’ Winter Track, Bowling, Wrestling, Basketball, Swimming, Cheer, and Hockey teams are eager to have their winter seasons, and are hopeful for a plan that will allow them to play.
Spectators are a big part of any sport. Unfortunately, they will have to watch a little differently this upcoming season. Under Executive Order 187, indoor contact sports and practices are permitted for competition for all sports activities, no matter the risk level. There is a limit of 25% capacity in the room in which the sporting event is held. This limit should not exceed 25 people or be less than 10 people. If the number of athletes or individuals necessary for the practice or competition is greater than 25 people, they can be present only if necessary. The event should still not exceed 25% capacity. It is unlikely fans, parents, or siblings will be able to watch sporting events in person during the winter season. Governor Murphy has restricted interstate competitions, strongly believing that “as cases of COVID-19 increase across the country and in our state, we must take all measures necessary to stop the spread”(Via NJ.gov). Executive Order 194 restricts interstate competition on a K-12 level as well. Many of James Caldwell High School’s winter sports teams travel out of state during the season, host tournaments, and also participate in tournaments. Due to the current restrictions, this will unfortunately not be the case for this season, and holiday tournaments will most likely not be happening.
Last season, sports teams were allowed to compete in several games per week. This season, however, each winter sports team will be limited to two games per week. There can be two three-game weeks allowed. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) currently only allows competition between two teams, but that is subject to change. There will only be sectional champions, with the sections structured regionally and based on counties. Additionally, there is a fifteen event maximum during the regular season for all sports, including one scrimmage with a neighboring school. Competition will be local, as it is not permitted to compete with out of state teams. The length of the season itself will unfortunately be shortened and be looking very different, with a reduced preseason and postseason as well with limited competition due to safety precautions. Most of JCHS’ competition will be from Essex County or from other counties relatively close to the Caldwells. Also, the New Jersey Department of Health’s “Guidance for Sports Activities” must be followed, which includes screenings, limited equipment sharing, and disinfecting surfaces. This is for the safety of athletes, spectators, staff, and referees and it is important to follow these guidelines to ensure that winter sports occur safely.