By: Ella Alger, Grace Lisella, Bella Tomaino
With the start of the upcoming high school basketball season upon us, players and teams are beginning their preparation. Exciting news from the CIAC on Oct. 29 stated that vaccinated players and coaches will not be required to wear a mask on the court.
This differs from the modified season teams saw last year, in which they were required to wear masks at all times with “mask break” timeouts implemented into the game. Sitting down with a few members of the Wethersfield High School basketball community, we were able to discuss how the upcoming season will differ from what we saw last season and how they will continue to stay safe this winter.
Jeffery Russell has been the head coach of the Wethersfield girls basketball team since the 2016-17 season, where he has helped lead his team to the state tournament each year and is no stranger to unusual circumstances. Back in March of 2020, his season was shut down due to the pandemic right before heading to the quarter finals of the state tournament.
Last year, the team was able to play a modified season that included the requirement of mask-wearing. When asked about his preparation for last year’s season, his goal was about getting “back to being a team again” and easing into the season, rather than the intense practices he has led in the past.
Additionally, when we asked how he would feel if masks were a choice again for this upcoming season, he told us, “My personal choice is yes. My youngest son still has some immune issues, so I mean I do just from a safety standpoint. They’ve never bothered me.” Masks or not, the girls basketball team is hoping to perform their same intensity on the court as we’ve seen in past years.
We also spoke to Coach Mark Bagdasarian, the assistant coach for the Wethersfield boys basketball team. Last winter, the boys already shortened season became even shorter due to a COVID outbreak on the team. They were forced to quarantine due to positive tests and close contact, which ended their season prior to the tournament.
For his preparation last year and this year he said, “How does it affect our preparation? It doesn’t.”
So it's just the same old season for Bagdasarian, no adjustments or alterations to the game plan, just play basketball. Furthermore stating, “I don’t like having kids wear masks, but I understand the reason for it.” Seeing that masks will not be in effect this season, Coach Bagsdasarian seems to be ready to bring the heat to the court.
Along with two of the Wethersfield basketball coaches, we also sat down with some players to receive their input on mask requirements from the past year and how they will feel having more breathing room outside of the mask this year.
We first met with senior Jack Frietas, who has been on the boy's basketball team since his freshman year and has played varsity since his sophomore year. When asked about masks affecting performance on the court, Frietas told us “I don’t think [masks] impact us at all, you just need to be in shape.” Frietas feels that masks do not affect a player’s performance during a game, instead “it’s just more annoying to have it on.”
From a players standpoint, running around at high intensity for 32 minutes with a piece of fabric on your face is not the most convenient experience in the world, so when players found out that masks would not be required for vaccinated players and coaches, they were most relieved rather than nervous. With COVID still being a present issue, taking other precautions will still be a priority. However, it puts players at ease to know that they will be able to get back to the game they always loved in the way it’s meant to be played.
Written, edited, and produced by Wethersfield High School students, covering all news and events.