Fall Sports: A Waiting Game

With the cancellation of spring sports around the country this past year, players are looking forward to finally being able to resume sports this fall. However, with the pandemic still prevalent, athletics may have to be put on pause for this upcoming season. This puts athletic departments in a tough predicament in which they have to balance players’ and coaches’ desires to return to the field with the need to prioritize the health and safety of all those involved. With the original start date for fall sports being pushed back multiple times, players and coaches are trying to remain optimistic as we wait to see what sports will look like at Kennebunk High School. 

Luckily in Maine the COVID-19 cases have been low compared to the rest of the country. This puts Kennebunk High School in a much different situation than high schools in states like California and Texas. Regardless, Kennebunk High School and other high schools in different counties around the state still have to listen to the guidelines coming from the CDC and the DOE. Joe Schwartzman, the Athletic Director here at Kennebunk High School, says that the biggest difficulty when making the decision to play fall sports is following the protocol and procedures to have students playing sports in a safe manner. Going into one of the most challenging school years for Kennebunk, sports are the least of the administration’s concerns right now. Mr. Schwartzman says that “school comes first so we want to make sure athletics does nothing to stop that.” 

Usually during August and September, student athletes at Kennebunk High School are running around to practices and waking up early to train during their preseason period. This past month has certainly looked unlike any August that Kennebunk High School Athletics has seen, but coaches and players have been able to find ways to be creative amidst a pandemic. A major benefit of summer scrimmages and preseason is that it allows coaches an opportunity to get to know new players, whether that be the incoming freshman or people who are joining the sport for the first time. With that being taken away from the sports teams at Kennebunk High School, different coaches have had to find new ways to meet new players and reconnect with returning players. Most coaches have been able to do this through technology and online team meetings. 

Greg Cavanugh, the Head Boys’ Soccer Coach at Kennebunk High School, has found ways to create a summer season and a preseason-like atmosphere while being away from his players. The Kennebunk High School soccer program emphasizes the development of player character on and off the field. Coach Cavanugh says that “we’ve kept our character building program going with some ‘What Drives Winning’ activities, which is helping the coaches get to know the players better.” With most team practices and meetings being virtual it is expected that the turnout at these online practices would be much less than a normal practice but Coach Cavaungh says that he is “proud to see a lot of our guys staying engaged despite the remote challenges.” With coaches like Cavanaugh, it is great to see that Kennebunk High School sports teams are able to safely come together during a pandemic. 

Joe Rafferty, the Head Football Coach at Kennebunk High School, has also been able to keep his players optimistic about the season but misses what a real season does for his team. The football team has done online meetings to stay in touch with players and staff. In a traditional Summer, Coach Rafferty has a high turnout of players in the weight room three times a week. He says that in the weight room “athletes draw energy from one another”. Obviously at this time the football team cannot get into the weight room, and having online workouts has made it tough for players to gain motivation from their fellow teammates. What Coach Rafferty misses the most about the normal season is going away to camp. The football team goes to camp every summer to get ready for their upcoming season. Coach Rafferty says “the bonding and cohesiveness developed during that week as a team cannot be replaced”. While the football team is trying to keep players together virtually, the challenges of COVID-19 are making this season especially hard for players to bond. Tyler Adams, a junior who plays for the football team at Kennebunk High School says, “I miss being able to see my teammates and miss being able to get back in sync after Summer.” Players and coaches are feeling the effects of COVID-19 on their season as they try to create cohesion throughout the team.

While the preseason period is set to begin on September 14th, everything is subject to change in these uncertain times. All that players can do right now is to try to get workouts in and wait patiently to see what the season will look like while coaches try to virtually motivate their players to train as if there will be a season.