First came some jubilation. Then, Gardiner Area High School field hockey coach Sharon Gallant said, excitement tempered.

“I was brinking on euphoria (Wednesday),” she said. “I was so jacked, and then I got the text (Wednesday) night (regarding the state’s involvement) around 9:30, and I was like ‘Oh, no!’ … I feel a little bipolar. One day I’m like ‘Woo!’ and now I’m like ‘Oh my God, I don’t think they’re going to let us play.’ ”

Gallant wasn’t the only coach or school administrator to experience a rollercoaster of emotions, despite some clarity Thursday from the Maine Principals’ Association regarding fall sports.

The MPA Interscholastic Management Committee recommended that all fall sports be played this season, contingent on a vetting process by the state to ensure COVID-19 safety guidelines are followed. The vote Thursday came a day after the MPA’s Sports Medicine Committee recommended all sports — including football — be played this fall.

The detail of the state’s involvement came as a surprise to sone athletic administrators and coaches, many of whom were expecting the MPA’s recommendation to go to each district for final approval.

Winthrop athletic director Joel Stoneton acknowledged he was frustrated by the continued lack of clarity on what was expected to be a day of resolution.

“I do think that there have been too many entities. There are too many groups that are trying to make decisions,” he said. “I know it’s a tough decision, but someone’s got to make it.”

Coaches were left feeling anxious as well. At Mt. Abram High School in Strong, boys soccer coach Darren Allen has seen his confidence in a fall season ebb and flow like a tide.

“I feel like a yo-yo. (Wednesday), I was feeling good. Watching the (MPA Interscholastic Management Committee) meeting, it doesn’t look that good,” Allen said. “My feelings change from one moment to the next. This is drama. I don’t want drama.”

More than anything, Allen wants an answer to provide his team.

“I’ve got 30 kids chomping at the bit to play. We just want to play. We want to adhere to any rules that come out,” Allen said.

 

Members of the Gardiner cross country team do leg lifts Thursday during a conditioning workout at Gardiner Area High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

 

Skowhegan Area High School athletic director Jon Christopher has a checklist of things he needs to do to prepare for a possible fall season. Some of those things he does, knowing it will not matter. Some he’s put off, waiting to get a final answer on whether a fall season can be played.

“I honestly don’t know what the time frame will be,” Christopher said. “The more time you have, the easier it is, right? But that’s the kind of world we’re living in.”

Christopher said he expects to offer sports if he receives the all-clear.

“We’re 100%, at this time, planning that it’s going to happen. That doesn’t mean the school is 100 percent behind it,” Christopher said.

Lisbon athletic director Eric Hall, who is a member of the MPA Soccer Committee, said he expected that the next step in the fall sports process was added guidance from the state.

“This isn’t anything that shocked me,” Hall said. “I think what it is, a lot of people out there are thinking that, what has happened with the Sports Medicine (on Wednesday), and with Interscholastic Management meeting (Thursday), that everybody out there is ready to go. There’s still some things that we kind of have to go through that everything meets the CDC guidelines, as the governor’s orders have been over the last few months.

Members of the Skowhegan girls soccer team work out during a practice Thursday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

As each day nears Sept. 8 — the first day fall sports teams can practice — Hall said it may become more difficult to put together final team schedules.

“I think for us, once we get through these steps along the way, (the challenge) is getting the schedules, and letting your coaches know,” Hall said. “They’ve been practicing, going through each phase, meeting with teams and following the safety guidelines. But at the same time, there’s still questions like ‘What’s the schedule like?’ from parents and student athletes. We had put together a schedule in the spring, but when we got some of the clarity that we were going to a 10-game schedule, and there was talk of regionalization. That’s been out the window. The schedules that we had in the spring aren’t really the schedules we’re going to use. A lot of the coaches are like, ‘When’s our first game?’ and ‘Can we get a scrimmage in?’ If we start on Sept. 8, it’s just going to be a spring there to the first game.”

Morse football coach Jason Darling acknowledged all sports are still in a holding pattern.

“We are playing the waiting game,” he said. “Even after the recommendations, there’s still a process. And the process is being pushed out more. We’ve done all we can do. Now, we just have to wait. … Kudos to (the state) for wanting to be involved and vet anything they can out, it’s part of process. It’s best practices. Look, through this entire thing we’ve all said, we have to get school back. That’s our No. 1 priority. We know how important sports is but we have to take care of school first. So let’s wait and see what happens and hope that we can somehow play.”

 

Staff writer Dave Dyer and sports editor Bill Stewart contributed to this report.

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