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Return Of Fall Sports To Maine Schools Is 'A Work In Progress,' Even As Some Teams Start Training

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Robbie Feinberg
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Maine Public 2019 File Photo
The MPA, which oversees Maine high school sports, has released guidelines for schools to follow with an eye toward the official start of the fall sports season September 18.

As Maine schools continue preparations for reopening this fall, some high school athletic programs have already started training. But most local districts are still trying to figure out the basics, like how many games will be played and who their opponents might be.

"A work in progress" is how Maine Principals' Association (MPA) Assistant Executive Director Michael Bisson describes the preparations for the potential return of some fall sports. The MPA, which oversees Maine high school sports, has released guidelines for schools to follow with an eye toward the official start of the fall sports season September 18. The MPA actually began issuing advisories on allowable summer activities last spring, and some schools put in place voluntary strength and conditioning sessions that were allowed as of July 6.

Hermon School District Athletic Director Rick Sinclair says that was “a local decision.”

“We chose not to do that,” says Sinclair. “Many of the schools in our area have made that same decision. I can only think of a couple that actually, in Phase 1, with groups of ten.”

Sinclair says his high school athletes will not come back until August 24 for so-called Phase 4 conditioning and acclimatization. And Sinclair says the Penobscot Valley Conference, in which Hermon participates, is still working on fall competition schedules with guidance from the MPA.

“Shortened seasons, more regional schedules, open tournaments...those guidelines are all provided to us so I would say, right now, that's the direction we're working on.”

Mt. Blue High School Athletic Director Chad Brackett says more regionalized schedules mean student athletes don't have to spend extended periods of time on a bus. It also means competing against teams in other conferences.

“That is tricky too because you don't want a large school playing a small school.”

Another scheduling issue for Mt. Blue in western Maine, which plays 11 man football, is that nearby schools have reduced their programs to eight man squads.

Brackett says a lot of what fall sports programs look like in Maine this year will depend on what happens on the academic side, and on which schools choose to bring their students back full-time, do all remote learning, or design a combination of the two.

“We'll have to see what schools are available to play and what kind of regional schedule we can set up that we feel is safe and appropriate for our students to participate in,” says Brackett.

And since those decisions are being made at the local level and at different times, the full picture of the fall sports season may not be clear for weeks to come.

Originally 4:54 p.m. posted August 5, 2020