The Wellesley High School basketball teams will be adding a new drill to their regimens: moving 198 desks and 198 chairs in and out of the gym so that they can practice and play during the pandemic.
“There’s a huge buy-in for our kids,” Wellesley High Athletic Director John Brown told the School Committee on Tuesday night. “They know if they want to play then they need to do this.”
The outlook for basketball being allowed didn’t look good late last month when a handful of other sports, including ice hockey and gymnastics, got the School Committee and Board of Health’s OK, but basketball did not. It was listed as “pending further information” in light of COVID-19 concerns.
Since then, the various approval parties have been convinced by medical experts and play modifications outlined by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association that basketball is worth a go. This applies to freshman, JV, and varsity boys and girls teams, with practices set to start Dec. 14 and games vs. 6 teams in their league beginning on Jan. 5. There will be no state tournament games.
Brown, who along with other school officials got the Board of Health’s blessing on Monday, reviewed the basketball game plan with the School Committee on Tuesday, Dec. 8 (around 1 hour and 15 minutes on the Wellesley Media recording). Among the rules and new practices: No in-person spectators, the introduction of mask break areas, and limited roster size. Some play modifications seek to limit close contact between players, and Brown noted that close defense has largely gone away anyway as more players are launching 3-pointers and defenders switch more on the players they cover. The school will work with coaches to strongly encourage all players to get tested for COVID-19 even though WPS can’t mandate the students to do so.
School Committee members raised concerns about safety, about the teams Wellesley would be playing, and fairness issues in allowing sports to take place while other student activities are not allowed to take place in person. But in the end, the committee voted unanimously to approve play.
There’s still no plan for clearing school gyms for Wellesley youth basketball.