Varsity athletes, coaches to be screened daily

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BRATTLEBORO — Seven, 150 and 100.4 were the most popular numbers during Tuesday's Zoom meeting that was hosted by the Vermont Principals' Association.

Questions were pouring in about the proposed 7-on-7 touch football season, with media members wanting to know what that will look like and why Vermont's varsity teams can't play the tackle version like schools in other states will.

"In New Hampshire, the schools make the decision. In Vermont, the Department of Health has said that 11-on-11 cannot happen. It's hard to compare one state to another," said VPA Associate Executive Director Bob Johnson. "Understand that Vermont is doing the best that it can to offer sports this year."

The Zoom session host also noted that there would be a maximum of 150 spectators allowed at each fall sports event, adding that some schools have mentioned that they are considering having games without fans.

"We want the kids to be out there and we are aware of the mental health concerns," Johnson said. "We also know it (the pandemic) is a serious, serious situation. We know people are frustrated."

It was also made clear that coaches and students would have a health screening each day, involving a temperature check — to make sure they are below 100.4 — and the standard COVID-19 symptoms questions.

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Johnson stated that fall sports practices will begin on Sept. 8, with the field hockey and cross country state championships set for Oct. 31. The soccer titles will be held on Nov. 7, however college sites are currently unavailable to third parties.

All of the football information will be discussed during Thursday's VPA meeting, including the 7-on-7 proposal and scheduling.

If AAU rules are used, games would take place on a 40-yard field plus end zones and would be pass plays only. There is also talk of holding linemen contests at the other end of the field, involving strength and conditioning tests.

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"Three players have expressed interest in moving to a New Hampshire school so that they can play tackle football," responded Johnson, when asked if he had heard of Vermonters planning on transferring this year.

He also said that he is aware of petitions going around for full-contact football to be played in the Green Mountain State. One of those was started up on by Champlain Valley Union junior Henry Kramer.

When asked about the differences between soccer and tackle football, Johnson showed how contact on the pitch is usually only for a split second and said that the chances of transmission in tackle football would be much greater.

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"We started out asking about having an 11-on-11 tackle football season and then asking about 11-on-11 flag football with blocking," said VPA Executive Director Jay Nichols, adding that neither is being allowed by the state. "The Department of Health gets to make these decisions...we do not."

Soccer and field hockey teams will start games on either Sept. 18 or Sept. 21, playing out their schedule from that point. Masks will be required for all players, however there is some discussion going on about ways to help out athletes with asthma.

The cross country concern is mass starts, so the VPA is looking to schedule smaller meets this fall.

Each school will be able to make its own decisions regarding intramural sports during the pandemic.

Johnson has heard about the winter sports season possibly starting after Jan. 1, 2021.

"We will know about winter sports on Oct. 15," he said. "We hope the winter sports season is back on track and back to normal. I know there are significant concerns about basketball and hockey."


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