Fall Sports: Modified Rules, Modified Fees As Seasons To Start By Month’s End

Photo: Belmont High Field Hockey will be playing this fall

There will be a fall sports season for Belmont High School student athletes as the Belmont School Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday night, Sept. 8, to approve an agreement by the Middlesex League which Belmont is a member on rules and safety.

With each sport – field hockey, golf, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country – having to undergo a number of modifications to limit contact and potentially unhealthy actions on the field, the School Committee modified the participation fee each players pays.

“We are entering into a very unique school year, not only academically Burt for our student athletes,” said Jim Davis, Belmont’s athletic director, who told the committee the fee will be cut by $150 to $300 due in not small part to the major changes each sport will undo.

For example, heading the ball in soccer is disallowed, penalty corners will be discontinued in field hockey and cross country will likely be a timed race rather than the traditional group event. In addition, sport teams will be playing a third of the usually number of games in recent season and there will be no post-season tournament.

Davis said he, Belmont Superintendent John Phelan and the high school coaches reviewed the modifications and the potential impact on each sport “and that’s why we are moving forward with the ask this evening to bring those sports … back into our school and allowing our student athletes the opportunity to compare in those activities.”

While the cut in the fees will reduce revenue from athletic activities to an estimated $86,000, expenses due to less games and personnel will fall to $98,000 for the fall sports season. Phelan said that an $11,000 deficit would have been seen as reasonable when the district was initially forecasting the impact on the bottom line.

The Middlesex agreement – which is following guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the high school’s governing body the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association – is providing guidelines on pre-workout and pre-contest screening, social distancing in practices, and protocols for equipment use, hydration and the cleaning of gym bags.

There are also measures to increase physical distancing – keeping players six feet apart for the majority of games and practices – and incorporating protective equipment to reduce the spread of respiratory particles.

Under the agreement approved, fall sports in the Middlesex League will start Monday Sept. 21. Golf will kick off the season during the week of Sept. 28.

Sports will have three teams – varsity, junior varsity and freshmen – limited to 25 participants. Due to restrictions on the number of students on buses, away games will be restricted to 22 players. There will be three varsity and two sub-varsity practices each week.

Field hockey and boys and girls soccer will play 10 games on Saturdays through October and November including Columbus Day and Veteran Day. Belmont teams will play the five opponents in the Middlesex Liberty division on back to back Saturdays, home and away. The season for these sports will start Oct. 3. Games postponed will not be rescheduled.

Cross country will have five dual meets over this time.

Spectators will be limited to one per player who will be provided a season badge. Face masks will be mandatory at each contest.

The School Committee is continuing to discuss if athletes will be reimbursed their participation fee if a sports season is cancelled due to health concerns including a spike in COVID-19 infection rates. That debate will be voted before the season begins next week.

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