While it won't look the same as it usually does, it's looking more and more likely that there will be a winter high school sports season.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs unveiled new guidance for youth, amateur and K-12 sports on Friday, which indicated that some winter sports like basketball and ice hockey, but not wrestling, will be permitted to compete with modifications this coming season.

The guidance indicated that high-contact sports played outdoors like football will also be permitted to compete, opening the door for those sports to be played in the upcoming "Fall 2" season starting in late February.

Much like the guidance released in August ahead of the fall season, the new guidance divides sports into low risk, moderate risk and high risk categories which will be permitted to engage in different levels of competition. Low and moderate risk sports will be permitted to play games, as will certain high risk sports that require intermittent close proximity or moderate contact like basketball, ice hockey, lacrosse and ultimate frisbee.

High risk sports that are held indoors and require sustained high contact like wrestling, competitive cheer and pair figure skating, won't be permitted to compete. Those sports may still hold competitive practices as long as they use a cohort model where athletes only train within the same small group of individuals.

All sports will be required to implement safety modifications to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, including mandatory mask wearing by all participants except those competing in the water and those with a documented medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask. That includes athletes, coaches, officials and spectators.

What those modifications will look like remains to be seen, but the process of developing and implementing them is expected to take place over the next two weeks. The MIAA's individual sport committees will have five school days to develop and present sport-specific modifications to the MIAA Sports Medicine Committee, and from there the Sports Medicine Committee will present viable winter sports and their modifications to the MIAA COVID-19 Task Force. The COVID-19 Task Force will recommend sports to be included in the winter season to the MIAA Board of Directors, which will make the final determination on which sports are held this winter.

In terms of winter sports, gymnastics and skiing are considered low risk, indoor track and team swimming are considered moderate risk, basketball and ice hockey are considered high risk but with moderate contact, and wrestling, competitive cheerleading and pair figure skating are considered high risk and high-contact and won't be permitted to hold competitions.

Looking further ahead to the spring, the guidance also indicates that high risk sports with moderate contact like lacrosse will be permitted to compete in a similar manner as basketball and ice hockey, as will high risk, high-contact sports played outdoors like football and rugby. Girls volleyball, which was postponed to the Fall 2 season by all local schools, is considered moderate risk, and all other spring sports are considered either low or moderate risk.

To read the full document, visit: https://www.mass.gov/doc/safety-standards-for-youth-and-adult-amateur-sports-activities-phase-iii-step-2-effective-11720/download.

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