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No need for CIAC to end spring season without giving it a chance

We will know more Wednesday about the plight of the spring high school sports season, following a meeting of league commissioners at Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference headquarters.

Not easy work. But two words nonetheless for the meeting's participants: patience and prudence.

If we haven't learned anything else in the past week, we know the fluidity of coronavirus situation and its effects on life as we know (knew?) it. Hence, with so many unknowns, so many changing circumstances and with little evidence to predict the shapes and forms of the next few weeks, there is no need for CIAC officials to make the hasty call of ending the season without giving it a chance.

They should follow the lead of Massachusetts, whose governing body of high school sports issued a statement Monday that moved the start date of the state's spring sports season to April 27. Championship games would be played June 20.

"These decisions are based on available information and are made in the best interest of our student-athletes, schools and communities," the statement read. "These decisions will be revisited and adjusted as needed."

That's called patience and prudence. Information is likely to change. If and when it does, we'll adjust our decision accordingly. Perfect.

The only thing we know is that we don't know. Still, it's been somewhat amusing reading the musings of all our suddenly aspiring epidemiologists, especially on social media, which isn't exactly the Encyclopedia Britannica. Somehow, Bart from Barkhamsted and Dolly from Madison know more than an actual epidemiologists now. Except they don't. So let's leave the expertise to the experts and accept the idea that we have no idea if there's going to be a spring sports season.

But we can hope.

And with all the unknowns, we should still be allowed to hope, fully understanding it might not happen.

This is where I got off the train last week with the CIAC's bombshell that abruptly ended the winter sports tournaments. The CIAC's decision was proven prescient. But how it arrived at the decision was flawed.

Good leadership prepares its constituency for the potential of bad news incrementally, if possible. The CIAC membership, especially its rank and file (the coaches and kids) had no idea the prospect of full cancelation existed last Tuesday. Some kids learned their entire athletic careers were over — without warning — in the middle of the school day.

Some colleagues in the media have taken bows for supporting the CIAC decision from its inception. I'd humbly suggest that CIAC officials could have exercised more prudence and patience — and still arrived at the same conclusion a day or two later, only then with a more prepared membership.

The words of NFA boys' basketball coach Chris Guisti: "I guess in the back of my mind I thought it could be possible that they limit spectators, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect they would cancel the whole tournament. We just weren't prepared for that. We weren't prepared to hear the whole tournament would be canceled. We had no inkling that was possible. That's what makes it more shocking."

There are no easy answers at Wednesday's meeting. But unlike last week when several member schools balked at hosting games in their gyms and unilaterally prohibited their schools from participating, we certainly hope there's a little more esprit de corps and an arc that bends toward cooperation.

We need more voices singing harmony this week. We need creativity. We need adjusted schedules and people happy to work on them. We need to understand this isn't going to be perfect, but in the spirit of giving the kids a chance to play, we give a little and get a little.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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