Middlebury Union High School athletics adapt in Covid-defined year

By Piper Brady

Courtesy of Sean Farrell
Middlebury Union High School players have adapted to an assortment of restrictions this season, including a mask mandate.

Competitive athletics might have just returned to Middlebury College, but Middlebury Union High School (MHS) has organized Covid-friendly competition since this fall. It’s been a successful operation headed by Sean Farrell, the athletic director at MHS.

Outside of a ubiquitous mask mandate, most sports have been conducted as normal, besides a few changes implemented outside of the lines. 

“A boy’s lacrosse game is going to look the same as a lacrosse game did a year, or two years ago,” Farrell told The Campus. “The only difference is they will be wearing a mask.”

Off the field, MHS has taken several Covid-19 precautions to keep athletes and families safe. During water breaks, for example, players are required to be at least six feet apart. Furthermore, health checks are conducted before every practice and game, and all windows must be open on buses, even during the winter season.

When it comes to football and dance, though, the restrictions extend beyond the sidelines.  Instead of tackle football — which is predicated on constant person-to-person contact — Farrell has implemented a seven-versus-seven, non-contact version of the game. Players are unpadded, although they still wear a helmet, creating an entirely different game.

Dance is another sport that’s been drastically altered, since typical meets host large numbers indoors. Thus, given the 150 person gathering limit in place, hosting normal dance competitions becomes inconceivable. 

“We created a virtual format where each school would videotape themselves in their own gym, send it to us, and we’d create a film,” Farrell explained. “We’d send it to judges, and we did that all the way through the State Championships.”

The school also saw a dip in winter sports participation because indoor sports, such as basketball and gymnastics, presented safety concerns that deterred some students from participating. 

Another obstacle MHS faces this spring is how to host track meets in light of capacity limitations. Although the school has found a solution for the dance team, videotaping a race isn’t quite the same as recording a dance recital. As the inner workings are hammered out, the team is in a holding pattern, waiting on concrete guidance. 

This past year hasn’t been easy, but Farrell has helped guide MHS to a successful athletic operation amid the pandemic. Next up on the docket is spring sports, a season that will include schedules for each team. 

“All spring sports will happen,” Farrell said. “Throughout this whole process, only wrestling and indoor track were cancelled. Other than that, all sports happened.”