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Harford County high school coaches excited to get back on the field with spring sports season starting in March

Harford County high school coaches are ecstatic over a plan that will see a return to spring sports starting next month.

The plan starts with out-of-season conditioning on March 1, with practices for the spring season to begin March 15, the same day middle and high school students are to return in person once a week. The March 15 date is also two weeks later than the normal spring sports start date.

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“I’m super excited,” Harford Tech boys lacrosse coach Rob Gaines said. “For me, having just taken over the Tech program last year, the idea that we’d be able to get back at it in March almost feels like were picking up where we left off last year. Clearly, we will have lost some seniors and some kids may opt out due to COVID, but I’m excited, not just for the lacrosse aspect, but to see the kids get back together, to socialize, work and just do something that they love to do. I know we’ve all been missing that.”

Spring sports include boys and girls lacrosse, baseball, softball, tennis, and track and field.

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Havre de Grace girls lacrosse coach Melania Rimel-Holloway said she’s excited to actually get back on the field, but recognizes it may be a different type of season, with some questions.

“I am very much cautious, I would hate for any of my girls to get sick or anything to happen, but I think, you know what, clubs are out there doing it and it seems like they’re doing very well,” she said. “I don’t know that all parents will allow kids to come back.

“I think it’s a good thing for the kids, I think the kids are ready to get back on the field, I think they are ready to do something,” Rimel-Holloway added.

As with any plan, there are rules. Student-athletes will have to go home before practices or competitions and personal transportation will be required for practices; buses will be provided for away games. Additionally, players must come dressed for practice and games. Practices and games will start after 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and after 3 p.m. Friday.

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A physical presence in a hybrid schedule is not required for student-athletes to participate in spring sports.

“I think that’s going to be a huge impact on my program,” Rimel-Holloway said. “Number one, I think, I personally thought that the kids were gonna have to come back to school in order to be able to play. And now I’m being told they don’t have to be in school to be able to play.”

Practices can last no longer than 90 minutes and indoor facilities will not be available, which could be very problematic for baseball and softball teams.

“I don’t know what we are supposed to do, I’m hoping they’re going to make some exceptions that maybe we can bring at least six girls in, have three in the back gym and three in the front gym,” C. Milton Wright softball coach Jim French said. “Just do it on an alternate, hourly basis. I don’t know, but baseball and softball, there’s not a whole lot you can do when there’s 3 to 4 inches of snow on the ground, or 3 inches of mud or its 27 degrees that day.”

French is happy, though, to get the girls back involved.

“Just making the connection with them, a year for these kids, seems like it’s been 10 years,” French said. “It’s been almost a year since we’ve seen these kids.”

Student-athletes must be registered in Form Releaf by March 15; have a current physical, dated after June 7, 2020 submitted prior to participation; meet academic eligibility requirements based on second quarter grades and provide a signed COVID-19 awareness parent/student-athlete participation acknowledgement.

There is no participation fee and only families of players will be permitted to spectate games while following face mask and social distancing requirements.

School boards in nearby counties in the Baltimore metro area, such as Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, have voted in recent weeks to hold fall sports starting Feb. 13, in addition to spring sports seasons starting next month.

Harford County school officials are sticking with a spring sports season only, despite a complaint from one parent during the public comment section of Monday’s Board of Education meeting. Several board members questioned the decision as well following Superintendent Sean Bulson’s presentation on reopening schools in a hybrid format next month.

Michael O’Brien, executive director of secondary school instruction and performance, said HCPS officials believe a full spring season is “the best and safest approach of all of our options” for sports, as it gives high schoolers the opportunity to have spring sports this year after having nearly all of their season canceled when schools closed last March.

The proposed schedule also aligns with the plans of Cecil County Public Schools, Harford’s partner in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.

Deborah Basler, supervisor of athletics and physical education for high school students, also noted in response to board members’ questions issues such as a lack of field space for both fall and spring sports, as well as the challenge of finding enough coaches for spring and fall sports and how students who are multi-sport athletes could prioritize one sport over the other.

Aegis reporter David Anderson contributed to this article.

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