After three academic terms without interscholastic competitions, Andover athletic teams are gearing up to compete against peer schools this spring, according to Athletic Director Lisa Joel. Seniors currently remain on campus, training with respective varsity teams, and upon the arrival of the rest of the student body, competition will begin. Games and scrimmages are being organized as teams plan to play both home and away games while following strict Covid-19 protocols outlined by the school.
According to Joel, athletic teams are functioning as planned with the Seniors on campus. Teams are conducting practices and training with the limited numbers of athletes allowed on campus.
“We are offering [all] our traditional interscholastic sports. All of those teams are doing training with their varsity coaches, so some groups have bigger groups than others. Some programs have more Seniors than others and obviously, that impacts what you can do. I think the kids are feeling that we are doing as much as we can with the parameters that we have… We have been able to offer a full range of a training environment which was what we expected,” Joel said.
Joel states that the consistent athletic plan across Andover’s peer schools will allow for competition among teams. Andover students who are currently participating in remote classes will return to campus on March 23 and end a two-week quarantine period on April 5, marking the start of the spring season. At the end of that week, practices will resume and competition is planned to take place.
“The plan across every private school is to schedule games and scrimmages for the springtime and those will begin as [soon as] it makes sense relative to the start of the Spring Term and being out of quarantine. Right now, we [plan to be] out of quarantine on Monday, April 5 which is assuming that the fields will be clear of snow by then. That is when hopefully we will start our spring sports and tryout periods for teams that have tryouts. The hope is that if not scrimmages that first weekend, that we could get into a game-scrimmage environment by the following weekend,” said Joel.
The plan for a full athletic season with interscholastic competition has been constructed over the past few weeks, according to Joel. The decision was dependent on the plans of other local private schools and each has collaborated to schedule games this spring.
“[Having a full athletic season] was a decision that was made collectively by the senior administration in partnership with athletics… I think every secondary school collectively agreed that we can move forward and schedule games and scrimmages. We have been in motion with this for certainly weeks on end since early winter,” said Joel.
According to Joel, significant changes to team schedules include replacing midweek competitions with weekend competitions to allow for timely Covid-19 testing. Andover teams will also see a change in competitors in order to abide by state travel guidelines, limiting opponents to schools within Massachusetts.
“There are certain team sports that are in a two-game-a-week schedule typically in a normal year. It is the case as you look at the college model and how they have executed sports in the fall and the winter that they need to test [for Covid-19] and have [the] testing results back. The focus collectively has been that we will look to the weekends such as Friday and Saturday game days instead of midweek play and the guidelines on who we will play certainly have to do with travel restrictions, so we are focused on Massachusetts schools. That is not an athletic policy, those are state guidelines around travel restrictions,” said Joel.
According to Joel, there are strict Covid-19 guidelines outlined by Andover that each team will follow. The peer schools that Andover will compete against also decided on rules that require Covid-19 testing, an absence of fans, and a limited number of athletes allowed on buses.
“The schools are in lockstep with us which means we will not play a school that does not have a testing protocol in place similar to what you have probably seen in colleges. The results of the [Covid-19] test that would come in the day before you play competition would have to all be negative. If there were to be a positive test for a player or a coach, that game would be entirely canceled… There will be no fans [at Andover games] and there won’t be any fans at any of our peer schools. We are hoping that we [will] livestream any events. We would control the numbers on buses, so right now [the maximum number of people will be] 25 to travel on a bus. That is consistent at peer schools too,” Joel said.
Despite changes to schedules, Joel hopes teams can participate in the annual Andover/Exeter day. Andover is scheduled to travel to Exeter, New Hampshire in late May which is still in accordance with Massachusetts state travel guidelines.
“We are really hopeful [that we can compete against Phillips Exeter Academy] because it would be towards the end of the academic year. [The games will] be at Exeter this year, so our plan is that we will go to Exeter on the weekend of May 22… Also, by the state regulations, any teams out of state cannot come into Massachusetts to play games right now, so the only possibility is going to New Hampshire and that is what our hope and plan is,” said Joel.