The Lackawanna League winter sports season officially opens tonight under increased gameday safety protocols because of the coronavirus pandemic.
At a virtual meeting Wednesday, the Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association approved new measures ahead of a slate of girls basketball games and swimming set for tonight. Boys basketball is set to open Friday and wrestling opens Saturday.
Also Wednesday, the Lakeland boys basketball program shut down activities while it deals with a COVID-19 situation. The Chiefs postponed four games, including Friday’s opener against Dunmore, which is rescheduled to Feb. 3, and also pushed back games against Valley View, Mid Valley and Riverside. The game against Riverside is rescheduled to Feb. 17, according to Lakeland athletic director Brian Wagner.
As far as the new LIAA safety protocols, on gameday, both the host and visiting school will complete daily screenings per their respective district’s Athletic Health and Safety Plan and maintain those records. The visiting school must do so prior to departing for the game venue and provide the host with documentation attesting as much.
Included among general safety guidelines are:
- All individuals at an athletic event must wear a face covering at all times, including all active individuals participating in the event. Schools may refuse to compete against opponents who have decided to not wear face coverings. If a school or member of a team is not wearing a face covering, that athletic director must notify the opposing school’s athletic director at least 24 hours in advance of the contest.
- Hand sanitizing stations should be available for both schools and officials as well as a means for sanitizing playing equipment as needed. The host school is responsible to ensure hand sanitizing stations remain filled throughout the contest.
- Athletes are responsible for their own hydration. Visiting schools should communicate with the host school to determine if the host school is able to provide opportunities to refill personal drink containers.
- Pre-game conferences and/or meetings are limited to one official, the head coach from each team and one captain. Social distancing must be maintained throughout the conference and/or meeting without traditional handshake practices.
- Post-event handshakes are prohibited.
- Locker room use will be facility specific and only used for bathrooms and other privacy needs. Social distancing must be maintained during permitted locker room use. Visiting teams should come dressed in uniforms whenever possible.
- Host schools should attempt to make showers available to wrestlers after each bout or Kenshield Cleaning Wipes for sanitizing.
Each school districts is responsible for creating spectator guidelines at their own facilities.
Meanwhile, Honesdale and Montrose, which paused sports while in full virtual education settings, are on track to restart their seasons Jan. 28.
The Honesdale at Delaware Valley boys basketball game is postponed to Feb. 1, while the girls game, which will be Honesdale’s Senior Night, is rescheduled for Feb. 2. The Montrose at Susquehanna girls basketball game and the Susquehanna at Montrose boys game are set for Feb. 6 at 2 p.m.
Lackawanna League basketball schedules include 13 games for teams in divisions I and II, and 14 games for teams in divisions III and IV. Schools are permitted to schedule nonleague games during the season, and per the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, can schedule games without exceeding a total of 22 up to the state final March 27.
The Lackawanna swimming schedule opens with Holy Cross at Delaware Valley for a girls meet and Valley View at Abington Heights for a girls meet at 4:30 p.m. and a boys meet to follow. Valley View and Holy Cross will compare their results from those in-person meets and score a virtual meet.
School districts are responsible for creating their own attendance plans following guidance from the Governor’s Office and/or Department of Health.
All individuals present at the facility count towards the gathering limitations.
- Spectators may be permitted for special events, like senior nights, 1,000-point scorers or 100th career wrestling wins, with mutual agreement of both schools.
- Spectators should not enter bench areas or competition surfaces and must exit the facility immediately upon the conclusion of the contest.
- Team benches should allow for bench players and coaches to be socially distanced (6 feet).
- Scorer’s table must be limited to essential personnel, which includes the home team (official) scorer, announcer and timer, with a recommended distance of 6 feet between them.
- Visiting team personnel, including the scorer, are not deemed essential personnel and must remain in the visiting team bench area.
- Teams must provide their own basketballs for warmups. Sharing of basketballs between teams during any activities outside of the competition is prohibited.
- Traditional introduction of starting lineups should be modified in order to maintain social distancing of all participating student-athletes, coaches and officials.
- Limit pregame conference attendees to one referee, the head coaches and a single captain from each team. The conference will be at the center of the mat and all individuals should maintain a social distance of 6 feet. No handshakes allowed.
- Team areas should have chairs 6 feet apart, or schools may utilize their bleachers to maintain social distancing of wrestlers. Interaction of spectators with student-athletes is strongly discouraged.
- Eliminate the introduction of starting lineups. Wrestlers competing in the bout can be introduced just prior to it. When meeting in the circle upon introduction, fist bump or elbow bump instead of shaking hands.
- Limited to essential personnel — home team scorer, announcer, and timer — with a recommended distance of 6 feet between them.
- Visiting team personnel — scorer, statisticians, etc. — are not deemed essential personnel and will be provided an alternative location in close proximity to the scorer’s table.
- Will be staged in an area where social distancing can be achieved. Host schools will determine weigh-in procedures to allow for social distancing of wrestlers, coaches and referees.
- Teams will not weigh-in shoulder to shoulder this season and will instead weigh-in by team.
- No postgame shaking hands. Instead, line up on your team’s side of the mat and acknowledge your opponent.
- Face coverings are required at all times for coaches, wrestlers, referees, spectators and event staff. Teams may refuse to compete against opponents who have decided to not wear face coverings. If a bout is not contested because of COVID-19 concerns, it will be deemed a no contest. If a team or member of a team is not wearing a face covering, that athletic director must notify their opponent’s athletic director at least 24 hours in advance of the contest to discuss the situation.
- Mats should be sanitized prior to the junior high match and again prior to the varsity match. If possible, mats should be sanitized between every 3 to 5 matches.
Swimming and diving
- Only one person per lane should be permitted at turning end.
- Alternative methods for communication with or amongst officials should be used when feasible in order to maintain social distancing. All takeoff judging should occur from the sides of the pool.
- Relay swimmers must space apart from one another.
- Establish multiple sessions when feasible for warm-up periods to limit the number of swimmers per lane during warmup and cool-down periods.
- Restrict the number of swimmers in competition areas.
- When feasible, limit the number of divers during warmup periods by creating multiple sessions. During competition, divers may not approach the board until it is their turn to compete. Hot tubs should not be permitted. Dive order sheets should be posted in multiple areas in order to reduce the number of divers viewing sheets at the same time.
- Keep teams on opposite sides of the pool and require the host school to compete in lanes 1-3 and the visiting school in lanes 4-6.
- Athlete clerking areas should be eliminated.