Gould Academy athletic director Bob Harkins and Hebron Academy Head of School Dan Marchetti are taking a wait-and-see approach to the upcoming winter sports season.
The rising number of COVID-19 cases across Maine and the rest of the United States is a concern for both men, who are keeping an eye on the Maine Principal’s Association to see if the MPA issues new directives. For now, the two private schools are still preparing for the winter season, but their No. 1 priority is the safety of all students.
“Well, it is hard to say at this very moment,” Harkins said. “You know we greatly adjusted our fall schedule. We did not play soccer or field hockey interscholastically. We did compete in mountain biking, cross country and golf. We could do that because we didn’t have any contact with other team.”
According to Harkins, the MPA has given the go-ahead for the schools to begin skills and drills on Dec. 7 with basketball.
“But in terms of putting a schedule together, we haven’t even begun to do that,” he said. “My gut is that if we are able to compete interscholastically in basketball, it will be against our peer schools in Maine. Hebron, Kents Hill and Hyde, maybe a couple of others. But we talk pretty regularly with the ADs. Everybody right now is just trying to stay in their own bubble.”
Harkins is also waiting to see how the winter season will play out for Gould’s on-snow programs as the coronavirus gains another strong foothold in the Pine Tree State.
“The big thing for us is the on-snow stuff because we have 80 percent of our school population involved in snow activities,” he explained. “Sunday River is certainly bullish on opening, but typically they are opened by now, but obviously, the weather hasn’t cooperated. We are hoping to be on snow by this coming weekend. We are fortunate in that we have our own building up there. We have our own lift up there.”
Having its own facilities at Sunday River allows Gould to remain in its own bubble without having to use lodges. He is also hoping competitive skiing will be allowed this season.
“The Maine Alpine Racing Association has put a schedule out … so we are hoping to pursue those schedules there,” he said. “They have a max number of competitors. They set that at 100, whether that be same sex or both sexes in the same race. Events will be between Sunday River, Sugarloaf, probably Shawnee Peak, Titcomb, and we may cross the border into New Hampshire. But anything we do, there likely won’t be any overnight trips — just regional-based stuff that we can do our thing and come back.”
BACK AT HEBRON ACADEMY
Like Gould, Hebron’s Marchetti said the administration has not made any decision concerning winter sports.
“In the fall, we were very conservative with our approach to sports,” Marchetti said, “and the only things we competed in were things that were socially distant.”
Hebron, like Gould, offered running, mountain biking and golf, but Alpine and Nordic skiing are still on the table depending on MPA guidelines. But Marchetti added that there is still time to prepare for what the winter season will look like.
“To be honest with you, I understand it. Sports are very important,” he explained. “I think the boarding schools in general have to be concerned about the kids who live here. Health and safety this year is the main priority versus opportunities to compete. Our focus is on doing everything we can to maintain in-person learning.
“If that means more intramural sports this year with an eye toward the future,” he added, “that’s the sacrifice that we’ve been ready to make and clear about since we forecasted our re-opening plan. People need to remember that is just not their child’s health.”
He added that community spread is a great concern to those who are most at risk.
“When you think about the layers of risk, interscholastic competition creates variables that are out of our control,” he said. “It is proving enough of a challenge just to maintain the safety of your direct community. But there is a lot you can do without having to compete with other schools. There is intramurals, skills and drills. There is plenty of opportunities we are able to give our students who want college exposure because everybody is in the same boat. You know, Maine has been lucky so far.”