Any athlete or coach will tell you that preparation for game day begins well in advance of tip-off, puck drop, first pitch, or the starting whistle. This year, that idea has taken on an entirely new meaning. With expansive testing and safety protocols in place, the Lakes Region League – which includes St. Paul’s, Brewster Academy, Holderness School, Kimball Union Academy, New Hampton School, Proctor Academy, Tilton School, and Vermont Academy – has been taking a week-by-week approach to facilitating playing opportunities.
“On Monday, I called up to New Hampton and said, ‘How was your weekend? How does the week look? When do you test?’” says Director of Athletics Dick Muther. In other words, there was no time to look back on the first successful competition weekend of the Winter against Holderness; planning for the next games was already underway.
Building off of protocols developed during the Fall season for Lakes Region competition, the Winter schedule features multiple games against the same opponent throughout the weekend, allowing the rest of the week for schools to ensure good health and testing data on campus. In addition to running community testing throughout the week, SPS has been a testing site for all of the Lakes Region officials each week, playing its part to help make the games possible for all eight schools. “John Bassi [medical director at SPS] and the nursing staff have been unbelievably helpful in helping us come up with a plan,” says Muther.
Though the process to get to the game is arduous, it has been worth it for athletes at SPS. Varsity and junior varsity squads in both boys and girls basketball, boys and girls hockey, and boys and girls nordic skiing combined for a 9-5 record on February 12 and 13. More important than the final scores was simply the opportunity to compete.
“Our coaches are really good about making practices fun and providing growth opportunities,” says Muther. “That’s got to be the emphasis, but after a while, it does get a little old. The ability to play games is a huge difference, and I think the kids really appreciate that.” There are other benefits, too, notes Muther. Simply getting on a bus and leaving campus for a few hours is a fun change of pace for student-athletes.
With similar weekend dates planned for the rest of Winter Term with New Hampton, Kimball Union, and Tilton, Muther is hopeful for more good experiences. Part of making it happen, however, is patience.
“That’s the hardest thing for them, the patience,” he says. “We’re trying to have a layered approach, and it’s hard. The only thing we can be sure of is that if we didn’t do all of it this and something happened, we’d wonder why we didn’t do more.”