While the decision includes other co-curricular activities like band, theater and key club, it’s the loss of sports that has caused the biggest stir in the community.
“Nothing gets everybody riled up like athletics,” Concord High Principal Michael Reardon said.
The ripples from that stir are expected to be discussed at a special Concord School Board meeting on Monday.
“The good thing from my perspective as a principal is that the board is going to reconsider all this,” Reardon said. “I know they’ve gotten a lot of input from parents and kids since Thursday night’s meeting, so they’re going to take this up again Monday evening and we’ll see where things are after that.”
Deb Leahy is part of a group of Concord High parents who are pushing for the school district to allow sports. The group has started a petition at change.org that had nearly 300 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
“My husband and I are really pro high school sports, and we think these kids deserve to play the shortened season with tryouts starting on September 8,” said Leahy, referring to the return-to-play guidelines put forth by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association that postponed the start date for all high school sports to Sept. 8, shortened the season and made postseason tournaments open to all teams who wish to participate.
The Concord High athletes that were training during the summer were doing so under guidelines created by Concord High athletic director Steve Mello.
While organized team activities are currently not allowed, Concord High coaches are in touch with student-athletes on their teams and can offer them training plans and advice – remote coaching, basically, in case the school board changes course and fall sports are back on.
“I’m sending them plans, reaching out to them, encouraging them, checking in on them, seeing what they’re doing,” Concord boys’ cross country coach Zach Procek said. “But summer workouts are voluntary and optional anyway, and while we’re in this full remote stage the directive is, full remote means full remote, so everything is on hold. I’m just doing whatever I can to keep the motivation up and trying to encourage them to train as if we’re going to have a season with as much normalcy as possible, and we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that that will come to fruition.”
The Concord School Board could go in any number of directions with this issue. Some low-risk sports like golf and cross country might be allowed, while some high-risk sports like football and soccer might not be. High-risk sports could be moved to the spring. Or teams could jump into the middle of a fall season that’s already in progress if it’s deemed safe enough.
“As long as the kids continue to train the way that they need to and with me monitoring that and checking in with them, I don’t think there would be too much of a concern,” said Procek, who coached the team to a state championship last year. “I think if we got the directive one day that, yes, sports can go back and then the next day we had a meet, I think we would perform fine.”
That’s likely true for individual sports like cross country, but team sports like soccer and football that depend on practice, chemistry and repetition could fall behind other teams and schools that are allowing practices.
Leahy said she knows of families in the Concord School District who are considering transferring their children to other schools, private or public, that are allowing high school sports. She also said that if the district isn’t going to allow sports, kids will still play club sports.
“For people who are thinking that by canceling high school sports these kids are not going to be exposed to teammates and other teams, I think they’re misled,” Leahy said.
Leahy said one of the big concerns about returning to school was being inside, but since fall sports (with the exception of volleyball) are played outside that shouldn’t be a concern. She was also confident that Concord High coaches and staff would be thorough implementing and enforcing COVID guidelines after her son Max, who will be a sophomore, went through some summer training sessions with coach Scott Dunlop and the Concord boys’ soccer team.
“Max trained with Concord High and coach Dunlop and he trained with two other soccer programs this summer and I will tell you the Concord High guidelines were the most stringent of the three,” Leahy said. “It was to the point where the coaches said, ‘Thanks for coming and you’re welcome here any time, but there’s really not much for you to do because we can’t allow people to shoot on you.’ But in his other two programs, they were shooting on him and playing in full games.”