Pandemic puts winter sports season on the bench, local towns virus rate too high
By LORENZO RECUPERO
The Monday after Thanksgiving is supposed to be the day high school basketball teams get to dig in.
In Everett, it’s marked the first official day of the winter sports season, when nets are set free and shots go flying.
This past Monday, though, Everett High School’s gymnasium remained shuttered to sports events, blocked by the ongoing pandemic still denying organized sports in the area.
Everett and other surrounding communities, including Chelsea and Revere, are still ‘Red Zone’ areas where COVID infection rates are too high to allow organized team sports within the public schools.
So, instead of athletes bouncing balls, the court at EHS remains scuff-less and is now being used as an E-Learning center to accommodate students who are unable to learn from home.
What would have been a day of excitement and try-outs turned into a day without basketball, a development something Head Coach Stanley Chamblain laments.
“As a high school athlete and even as an HS coach, [tryouts] it was a holiday for us, the next one after Thanksgiving. I’d have my gear ready the night before,” said Chamblain, who has played a pivotal role in Everett basketball for nearly a decade, including the last three as head coach. This year he strengthened his roots in the city after being named Assistant Principal of the Albert N. Parlin School.
“I felt different, uneasy not being in the gym Monday. There was a feeling of disappointment, and not just from a coaching standpoint, but for the kids,” said Chamblain, who believes Basketball in Everett provided much more than entertainment.
“Basketball can be much more than just a sport. There are kids who used the basketball season to audition for colleges and provide opportunities for themselves to punch a ticket to their dreams. For others, it’s a place to step away, a form of therapy and they don’t have that right now.”
To Chamblain, basketball has been a bridge between athletics and education at Everett High School, which boasts top-tier programs in multiple sports. And with the entire 18-game basketball season likely canceled, he’s concerned for the future of Everett academics as well.
“Kids are being hindered. I hurt for them,” said Chamblain. “With rising COVID numbers, you kind of err on the side of caution, I understand it, but it’s eating the coaching side of me,” he said.
“What will the city look like from an academic standpoint in two years?” asked Chamblain. “What effects will COVID have on our kids physically and mentally moving forward?” he asked.
The MIAA approved the winter season with modified rules, including wearing a mask on the court of play, sanitizing balls used in games multiple times during the competition, and no body-to-body contact for more than 5 seconds amongst other changes, but the final decision to allow basketball to be played in the ‘Red’ communities were left up to the individual municipalities.
Everett’s governing bodies have not authorized any formal team meetings or competitions due to COVID.
“The kids just miss the game. Ultimately, my hope is the city will give us a chance to play some sort of basketball this year,” said Chamblain, who hasn’t seen his players since the end of last season but has spoken to some via group chat.
“The entire School Department, including Superintendent Priya Tahiliani, EHS Principal Alex Naumann, Assistant Principal Cory McCarthy have all been working together to figure out ways to get the student-athletes playing their respective sports. My updates from Athletic Director Tammy Turner always mentions the kids being key players in the planning of this process,” he said.
All public school sports in Everett have been on hold since the start of the school year.