Conard Sports: Reflecting on the Winter Season and Looking Forward to the Spring
By: Clare Gillis
Just over a year ago, following the cancellation of winter sport state tournaments, national competitions, and spring sports seasons, students were devastated to see all of their hard work go to waste. Following vaccinations and the slow reopening of the state, spring sports are set to have an entire season with competitions and practices following CDC guidelines while maintaining a sense of the normalcy felt before the pandemic. The recent scientific breakthroughs regarding the virus have led to differences between the winter and spring seasons, with rules being adapted as the CDC releases newer statements and the state makes decisions regarding pandemic safety. Tasked with ensuring safety while also working to provide students with a beneficial and enjoyable experience, coaches have taken on a huge responsibility during the 2020/21 season. After interviews with James Redman, head coach of the Conard track and field team, and Meg Cersosimo, head coach of the girl's lacrosse team along with the girl's soccer team, a more clear picture of how the spring season will be run along with how it has been coaching during such an unprecedented time was able to be seen.
Coaching one of the largest sports with numerous students competing in different events, Coach Redman had to adapt aspects of practice to ensure safety and follow all CDC guidelines. During the winter season, the indoor track was the only sport that was unable to compete, a decision made by the CIAC. However, this upcoming season track will have seven outdoor meets, including more significant competitions such as divisionals and dual meets involving Conard and one other nearby school. Despite the lack of competition, Redman stated that he could successfully collaborate with other coaches, administrators, and students to ensure that the season went smoothly, and he noticed no extreme difficulty. Clearly, without competing against other schools, indoor track faced a unique situation compared to other sports. Redman claims that he is most looking forward to things missed out on the past winter, stating that he "can't wait to get outside and compete with the other schools in our conference. But even more than that, I am so excited to get our team back together and start training!" While he recognizes that this year was a "learning experience," he felt highly supported by school staff and everyone involved within the program. Some healthy competition was even able to occur towards the end of the season, with the students being separated into two teams and competing. After getting a taste of what it will be like to be back, students and coaches alike are heavily anticipating the spring track season, along with many other students who are ready to take the field.
Cersosimo also provided a valuable perspective on the upcoming season with her soccer and lacrosse coach position. There are apparent differences between the soccer and lacrosse season with the evolving circumstances and changing CDC and CIAC requirements. The most noticeable was the decision made for the spring season for there to be a small number of cuts for lacrosse despite the sport rarely having cuts during previous years. While in soccer, a sport that traditionally had cuts, the decision was made to accommodate any student that wanted to try out, making it a no-cut sport during the 2020 season. Cersosimo explained that she made this decision due to the lack of knowledge regarding the pandemic and sports in the fall compared to the spring. The soccer tryout process was significantly different, with extremely small cohorts and limited contact drills despite it being a contact sport for the first portion of the season due to guidelines. Cersosimo stated that because of this, she ¨did not feel like I could fairly access and cut a player without seeing her play the game¨. Also, Cersosimo elaborated and specified that ¨another HUGE factor in not cutting for soccer this past season was that if a player got cut from soccer, she was not able to join another sport due to COVID and the cohort protocol¨.
In contrast, in lacrosse, students can transfer sports if they do not make the team. The number of kids interested was also crucial in making the decision. Depending on the number of students trying out for lacrosse, cuts may not be necessary; however, it is a notable option introduced to students. Cersosimo agreed with Redman stating that ¨Nothing has been difficult, it has just been different¨ and thanking everyone who made the sports seasons possible. Navigating this climate has required lots of adaptation, and Conard staff had to work tirelessly for students to get this fantastic opportunity during such trying times.
Now that the guidelines have been laid out, the future season looks extremely promising, with athletes given a chance to show their competition skills for the first time in over a year. Virtually everyone within the school is awaiting the return of these sports that were missed last year, and expectations are high for Conard's 2021 season.