Athletes React to Winter Sports Plan

Spectators Banned, At Least Initially

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Audrey Tobin ('21)

Mia Pantano ('21), Orbit Contributor

The winter sports season is scheduled to begin on December 14th, and the MIAA and Middlesex League released an announcement that shocked many Reading residents and disheartened many student athletes; spectators are not allowed to attend winter sporting events due to rising cases of COVID-19 in the area.  

In a press release on December 11, the Middlesex League superintendents updated their stance, explaining that they will meet before competitions are set to begin and the status of spectators will be one of their topics of consideration.  Their release reads, in part, “Initially, spectators will not be permitted to attend any indoor competitions.  We will be meeting as a   League prior to the start of interdistrict competitions to finalize whether the competitions can occur as well as the status of spectators.”

The Middlesex League is not alone in facing difficult decisions regarding athletics.  Similarly, the Merrimack Valley League has also agreed that spectators will not be allowed at winter sporting events. The town of Weston even cancelled their winter sports season entirely, which disheartened many of their winter student athletes. 

Many RMHS winter sport athletes are coping with their disappointment as they reacted to this announcement. 

Senior captain of the Girls Hockey Team, Mia Bonfilio, recalled the moment she found out there would be no spectators at her games. “When I first heard this news I began to cry because my parents had always been my biggest supporters and now they wouldn’t even be able to watch my last season as a captain.”  Junior Maddie Rzepka, also on the Girls Hockey team, described her reception to the news as well. “I was angry and upset because my parents have come to all of my games and I only have a few more left”. 

While they understand the reasoning behind the decision, many athletes differ in opinion as to if the Middlesex League made the correct one. They expressed that there could be measures taken that would allow their parents and loved ones to watch their competitions safely. They emphasized that the atmosphere will feel severely impacted with the absence of their parents and loved ones because they are a key source of motivation.

Senior captain of the Gymnastics teams, Carissa Carr, said, “I know they are only trying to be safe and do what’s best, but I think they should allow one or two parents to come and stay 6 feet apart from other parents. I feel so supported when my parents are there, and I usually do much better. They are upset especially since it’s my senior year.” Sophomore Victoria Bean on the Girls Hockey team added, “I think we should be able to have spectators because they would be able to social distance throughout a huge stadium. They could also wear masks and be safe while watching. I think games will be less fun without them, and people will not be as motivated to win without fans cheering.”  Sophomore Lacey Carciero on the Girls Hockey Team also commented, “I feel like they made the right decision to prevent the spread of COVID, but if the right precautions are taken we should be allowed to have 1 or 2 socially distanced spectators.”   

Sophomore Cara Joyce on the Girls Hockey team expressed her opinion on the decision. She said, “I feel the Middlesex League made the wrong decision. Safety is crucial as we proceed to deal with Coronavirus. Through these challenges, we need to stop letting it get in the way of our lives. We need to come together and make it feel as real as we can with taking every precaution possible. I know this is doable because of my fall season experience this year. We had spectators, six feet apart, masked and following the labels on the doors of where to come in and out of properly. We ended the season happily and enjoyed spending quality moments throughout our games with the parents watching. Moments like these don’t last forever, it’s important we share them with our families.”

The League remains optimistic for the continuation of the winter season despite the absence of spectators. The superintendents also said in their statement, “We are hopeful that we will be able to continue to have athletics, including interscholastic competitions, among our member schools this winter, and we urge the members of our communities to practice proper health protocols (mask wearing, physical distancing, etc.) so that our student athletes can have the opportunity to compete.”