Coaches prep for the start of the winter season
With just over a week before the winter season can begin, Dartmouth High’s coaches are now hard at work finalizing schedules for the upcoming socially distanced basketball and hockey seasons.
Originally set to start Nov. 30, the winter season will begin on Dec. 14 and end on Feb. 21 following a late November decision from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.
No practices or tryouts are allowed before the mid-December date and tournaments will be limited to games within regional pods.
For Dartmouth High, competitors include Southeast Conference opponents like Bridgewater and Durfee, along with crosstown rival Bishop Stang.
As with fall sports, basketball and hockey both have a number of new Covid-related rules.
The biggest changes in basketball involve free-throws, jump balls and in-bounding the ball.
Instead of jump balls to start games or overtime periods, a coin toss will determine which team starts with the ball.
Only four players are allowed along the lane during free throws. With in-bound plays, those situations will move to the sideline at the free throw line, and the player defending the in-bounder must give them six feet of space.
According to boys head coach Mike Grandfield, the changes shouldn’t affect the fundamentals of the game.
“I’m actually pretty pleased with most of the modifications,” he said. “It gives us a chance to play the game how it’s supposed to be played for the most part.”
Girls coach Scott Richards agreed.
“The ones they came up with like no jump balls to start a game — you only have the one jump ball anyways,” he said. “I think [the MIAA] did a great job keeping the spirit of the game intact.”
At this point, Grandfield said, the main focus is on assembling the full team to begin practice after Dec. 14, adding that “planning the actual basketball piece is kind of on the backburner right now.”
“We’re just focused on how each day is going to look,” he said.
For hockey, the main changes will be to the benches and penalty areas. Coach Mike Cappello noted that on the ice, the main changes will be with scrums along the boards and more separation between players during faceoffs.
Under the new rules, scrums will be limited to two players — one from each team. If a third person enters, officials will stop play. Scrums will only be permitted to last five seconds before play is stopped.
“That can definitely slow the game down,” Capello said. “Hopefully the official and players can keep things moving from that standpoint.”
On the bench, no more than three coaches and one athletic trainer are allowed and 6 feet or greater distance must be maintained between the players at all times — something Capello said will “probably be the biggest challenge.”
“I think once we get going we’ll get better at it,” he said. “It’s just going to take a little bit of time.”
Even with the modifications, all three coaches agree that it will be nice to get back to playing this winter.
“The winter can really drag in New England and basketball makes it go really fast,” Richards said.