Boys Soccer Starts Season Under New Guidelines

Jake Ponte, staff writer

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-March, the possibility of fall sports seemed to be zero. But the pandemic had its biggest impact on New Jersey earlier this year, unlike other states, allowing for a fall season to be possible months later. While the difficulties that come with a COVID-19 pandemic are still present, NPHS fall sports will continue under the strict guidelines of The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA). The NJSIAA is an association of hundreds of New Jersey high schools that regulates high school athletics. With the introduction of COVID-19, the NJSIAA was tasked with giving new guidelines to every district. 

Given the responsibility of following strict protocols under the instruction of the NJSIAA, NPHS Director of Athletics Mr. Carangelo says last year and this year are “similar in that we’ve gone through all the training and they’ve given us all the guidelines.” He expressed how it’s on the “NPHS Athletic Department to follow all the guidelines to a ‘T’ and make them work for us and our community.” 

NJSIAA’s minimum standards need to be followed for every high school in New Jersey. Beyond that, county conferences and individual districts do their own more in-depth guidelines. In the Union County Conference (UCC), every school is responsible for requiring fans to be socially distant, wearing masks, and allowing no more than 500 fans. Carangelo mentioned how schools like Kent Place don’t allow away fans while other districts put up the 500-person maximum benchmark and allow people to find a socially distant area on their own. He says that “we’re somewhere in the middle.” He wants to make sure that every person who is at a game is in the stands, in bleachers, or in pre-designated locations that have all been spread six-feet apart using single stickers. Extra bleachers have been placed to accommodate one-hundred eighty-six home seats and ninety-nine away seats.

Carangelo noted how as the season progresses “families will get used to the rules.” He cited data collected by the NJSIAA and CDC showing that there hasn’t been any spread from outdoor sporting activities. He wanted to emphasize that “this is a community effort.” He emphasized the importance of outside of school behavioral decisions; that is the strong message he is trying to send. He expressed a cautiously optimistic feeling that is “extremely hopeful:  hopeful since March that this will get better and we will get to a place where we will be competing again.”  He said how this is a “collective effort” and the idea of “New Providence strong” will keep the community going.

Coach Barclay, head coach of the boys varsity soccer team, reflected on the coach’s point of view on the changes the NJSIAA guidelines have brought with the introduction of the new season.

He noted that in the early stages of preseason, not too much had changed. He mentioned how the team couldn’t work on group activities, or in pairs; it all had to be individual. As the month progressed, towards the end of August, the team was able to progress from phase one to phase two which allowed balls, but no contact. He said how “while you’re on the field playing the game it almost feels like normal.” All participants in warmups have to wear masks at all times and socially distance. He mentioned how normal practices such as group huddles are not taking place this year. 

Regarding working with the team in following the guidelines he said that “we’ve spoken about [the guidelines] on a daily basis.” He thought that “so far, it’s been well adhered to by the boys.” He wants to make sure that everyone understands the rules and abides by them. He thinks if that is done then the season will be productive. He noted everyone’s reliance on other teams following the rules so that games can go on. 

In regards to the team competitively, he said that the team has a good group of core returning players. He emphasized that “as long as we are competitive in games and the boys do everything they possibly can that’s all I can ask as a coach.” 

Coach Barclay is absolutely excited for the season. He said he has been planning for months, and looks forward to getting started. At the same time he notes that cancelations “may happen but if we can do everything we can and get the games in then I will be happy.”

Dylan Paniagua, a captain on the boys varsity soccer team, expressed high praise for the efforts the school has taken in implementing the guidelines:

“I think the school has implemented the guidelines very well,” he said, noting social distancing, masks, and temperature checks. He said how “it’s hard to adjust,” referencing the team’s efforts to get used to the expectations set. He felt that “it’s going to get better as we go on.” 

He enthusiastically finished off saying the team will be incredibly successful this season, maybe even going undefeated.

As the season gets underway, the boys varsity soccer team is relying on the NJSIAA guidelines to lead a productive and successful season.