The BHS fields are overcast. The bleachers are wet and rain beats down onto the turf, but clouds are not the only thing hanging over this match. A small crowd of parents and fans wait, using their phones to scan the QR code posted at the gates. They are waiting for the girls’ Varsity Soccer game: the showdown between the Burlington Seahorses and the Essex Hornets. On the field, the girls warm up with their masks on, careful to stay six feet apart. Inside the gates, the JV team huddles under an awning desperate to get away from the rain without getting too close to one another. There is a nervousness, a strangeness to it all, but underneath that there is excitement. There is exhilaration because even with the QR codes, even with the distancing, and even with the masks, they still get to play.
BHS girls varsity soccer, like every other BHS sports team, has had to adapt to new protocols this season to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Even with the regulations, the return to sports has proven to be cathartic for many students.
“It’s kind of an escape back to normalcy, especially with BHS having no classes,” AJ Scully, a BHS senior and offensive receiver for the SB/BHS Seawolves said. “I was a little bit concerned. You know, because of COVID and everything, but I feel like they’re doing the best they can.”
The Seawolves are playing games of seven-on-seven football this season, using two-hand touch instead of tackling, with no running plays allowed. On the sidelines, cheerleaders refrain from stunting; that means no pyramids or lifts.
“We can only do the side of the games. Just cheering and stuff. We can’t do any halftime routines, things like that,” Kami Chadwick, BHS junior and Seawolves Varsity Cheer Captain said. “It’s not as fun as many things we used to be able to do, but it’s still the general idea of it.”
Cheerleading might not look like what we are used to, but for Chadwick, it is still worth it.
“I think it’s really important for anyone to get involved in a sport or to do a sport right now to just get around other people and to be doing something that you really love doing,” Chadwick said.
Of the teams continuing during the 2020 fall season, football and cheerleading are the only two categorized as high contact under the fall sports guidelines set forth by the Vermont Agency of Education. Volleyball, soccer, and field hockey are all considered low contact, though volleyball is required to practice and play outside. Low contact sports are currently barred from tournament style play. Cross country and golf are categorized as no contact. This allows them to have meets with more than two schools in attendance. Cross country is also the only team allowed to forego facial coverings, provided proper distancing is maintained. All other teams are required to wear masks at all times and every team must implement social distancing when possible.
When attending a practice, match, or meet players and spectators are required to use their phone to scan a QR code and fill out a quick survey. This ensures that they are not displaying symptoms and provides the school with contact information that is necessary for tracking and managing potential outbreaks.
While there are many new regulations to deal with, many students seem to have taken the adjustments in stride.
“The first few weeks, you know, it was tough for the kids to get used to wearing the facial masks and things like that,” Jeff Hayes, head coach of the Girls Varsity Soccer Team said. “But now they come through the gate, their mask is on, they take their phone out. It’s just automatic. It’s routine for them now. They get it. They get that they need to do this if they want to continue to play sports.”
Coaches are instrumental in ensuring the safety of themselves and their players as they are the ones enforcing the state guidelines.
“At any time we could have an outbreak. Or another school could have an outbreak, and then we were playing against those schools,” Spencer Avery, BHS Varsity and JV Boys Volleyball coach said, “Definitely you have to think about it constantly because it’s a real pandemic, and a lot of people are dying.”
Coaches work to make sure that students are able to enjoy being on their team while still being as safe as possible. “Getting kids to be able to come and interact with each other in a safe way, in a social way, is important because we haven’t had that for a while.” Avery said, “It’s just something that these kids are looking forward to so being able to make it happen is important, but you have to make sure it’s safe. You have to balance those two things.”
Many students look forward to the opportunities that this sports season affords them. For some, it may be their last chance to play.
“I was really worried that we wouldn’t have a senior season,” Payton Karson, a BHS senior and captain of the BHS Varsity Girls Soccer team said. “Every year since I’ve been on the team I’ve always dreamt of what my senior season would be like, and I never thought it would be like this, but I’m just happy to have one.”
And they do have one.
The rain starts to let up, and the BHS Varsity Girls Soccer team takes the field, ready to play the Essex Hornets. Karson scores the only goal, a penalty shot, leading the Seahorses to victory. When the ball hits the back of the net her teammates jump and shout, running towards her, but as they celebrate they make sure not to get too close. The smattering of fans spread along the stands cheer from behind their masks. Everything feels different, but when the scoreboard lights up the thrill is a familiar one. The play may not be what we are used to, but the spirit of the competition remains the same.
Upcoming Games Schedule:
Saturday, October 10
10:00 am: Girls Varsity Soccer VS BFA
10:00 am: Girls JV Soccer VS BFA
10:00 am: Cross country meet at CVU
11:00 am: JV field hockey VS SB
12:30 pm: Varsity field hockey VS SB
Go to burlingtonathletics.com for the full BHS fall sports schedule.