On Monday night (January 18th), U-32 senior Aiden Hawkins laced up his basketball sneakers in a U-32 gym for the first time since March 4th of last year. The senior got right down to business, shooting around, but making sure he was safely distanced from other players.
“It’s been different for sure,” Aiden said. “I’ve been told we’re gonna have a season, but I’ve also been told we may not. Right now we’re just taking it one day at a time and trying to do what we need to do to get better.”
The senior also said that a positive attitude is going to be crucial for the team’s success especially over the next two weeks with practices being different. “Our saying is ‘All in For Each Other,’” he said. “We gotta be there for each other no matter what situation we’re faced with.” U-32’s Hank Van Orman, the school’s Athletic Director, plays a large role in planning the sports seasons here at U-32. Hank has constantly been working with administrators and state guidance to get the season underway in a way he feels will allow athletes, coaches, and families to be safe and successful.
On Wednesday, January 20th Hank took time to talk about what he thinks and hopes the 2021 winter sports season will look like.
We are now three days into practice here at U-32 what kinds of challenges or highlights have come up?
So far I have been extremely happy with the way that all our coaches and athletes have been following the protocols. Everyone has done an excellent job in terms of wearing their masks correctly and maintaining social distancing. But equally as important, people are out there having fun and excited to be back.
In terms of challenges, we haven’t had any besides long hours. I think every challenge we anticipated so well that it hasn’t been a challenge. There hasn’t been anything that’s come out of the blue.
Question: What’s a challenge you faced when putting together a plan to get athletes back out onto the courts, rinks, and trails?
I think its important people understand that when you say “these plans” it’s not like we can just go to a resource or a “one-stop-shop” and say ok which plan am I going to look at, review, and see if it works.
The school was given basic guidelines and basic protocols through the state through groups like VPA and the Vermont Department of Health. From those guidelines, we have to make our plans. To make those plans you have to start with your most important feature and the most important feature is keeping our student-athletes safe.
We are trying to be as appropriate as possible and not set the second set of standards different from the ones student-athletes are used to in the classroom. Equity is a very large part of creating our policies for this winter. It is certainly deeply rooted in our ability to progress towards things like contact play and hopefully competitive games.
Question: Earlier this month the governor of Vermont cleared contact play for high school sports but U-32 has chosen to stick with the original plan of no contact for the next two weeks. Can you talk about the decision and thought process that went into saying no contact for the next two weeks?
Right now we are anticipating two weeks of non-contact. We are going to be constantly evaluating this and will work together on how we can best proceed in progressing in the safest way possible.
I think progression is the big thing here. We have athletes, coaches, families that have not been involved in a winter sport or maybe even a sport since last February. Just because the day that we chose, they happen to say all right you can do all the way up to here, in regards to practices and competitions doesn’t mean we are going to jump right into that.
We’re going to build from progression. What we did in the fall doesn’t just carry over into this season.
Circumstances are different and there has been such an extended period between the seasons. So with that being said, we need to start somewhere that can safely get our athletes, coaches, and families where we all want to be.
Question: What is one thing for the upcoming season that you are looking forward to or hopeful about?
First I would say I hope we can continue with what we did in the fall in regards to every athlete being able to compete along with all the coaches, athletes, and families being safe.
I don’t want athletics to be the cause of anyone suffering from an illness. Similarly, I hope people can understand that following the rules and regulations put out there by the state of Vermont will help us ensure the opportunity to play for our athletes.
We can control what happens in the gym and what happens in the rink. My biggest worry is controlling the social interactions not involving the school.
We all have a role in this, and we strongly believe that athletics is a big part of our student’s lives. So I encourage everyone to follow the protocols so we can get to where we all want to be.