Planning during a pandemic has become a daunting task for many, especially those involved in education.
That being said, athletes and coaches have been concerned about the winter season’s approach, and the Lions at Lackawanna Trail are no different.
Athletic director Ed Gaidula has been tasked with fielding the many questions that are posed to him, and with Trail being one of the only districts in the surrounding area that offers a full brick and mortar experience, most students are eager to get back to a full ‘normal’ experience.
However, there will be some differences in Trail’s winter season.
According to Gaidula, who was not a part of the school board’s discussions, Trail is still holding open gyms and will begin practices as scheduled on Nov. 20. The only caveat is the district will not host, or be a participant in, any scrimmages that may have been previously scheduled. The first official start date for PIAA competitions is Dec. 11, and barring a COVID-19 incident, the Lions will be on track to begin their winter season.
“This is going to be different from what we have ever done, even what we did with the fall sports,” he explained. “With indoor sports, we have different issues to address.”
Gaidula is up for the challenge, because as he sees it, Trail’s administration and board could have cancelled the season outright. But, he says, they are working to find common, and healthy, ground.
“It is a fair choice to let the kids begin practices,” Gaidula said. “There really were only two scrimmages for each basketball team that we had scheduled. And the teams we were going to play agreed. One of the teams actually approached me to cancel before I got to call them.”
The wrestling schedule was still in production at the time of this article.
There is a school board meeting on Dec. 7, and as Gaidula explained, any incidents that arise between now and the official date of first contests, can be addressed at that time.
“We are just a little weary with the players travelling in and out of all the other schools, and their teams and fans coming in here,” Gaidula said and briefly spoke about the contact tracing that would need to follow if a COVID-19 case were to occur.
Gaidula did point out that the girls’ scrimmage against Wyalusing Area is tentatively still on, as it is scheduled after the meeting date.
“Worst case scenario, we cancel the game at that point,” he said.
“As an athletic director, I am always- always- going to advocate for the kids to play,” Gaidula said. “But we have to find a way for them to play safe.”
One way the district explored safety in the fall was livestreaming the volleyball games on YouTube.
“Our outside sports didn’t have as many regulations as volleyball, so our coach, Kristin Kurpis, created a YouTube channel for our fans. We are exploring that option for the winter,” said Gaidula.
Wrestling seemed to be the enigma in the equation, as Gaidula echoed the sentiments of many in the grappling world, saying, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
“It is a tough situation, trying to discuss the winter season, and we really feel for all of the athletes,” he said. “We saw what happened last spring, and to a degree this fall, to the seniors. Understandably, the school board is making some hard choices. We have to figure out what is best for everyone.”
That ‘everyone’ includes, he said, the community members and non-athletes in the district that have to be in contact and the classroom with the players.
"Our number one priority is the safety of our kids, but at the same time we want to find a way to keep the season going," he added.
Something Gaidula wants the athletes to keep in mind is that they cannot compare Trail’s situation and decisions to other schools.
Recently, the Landmark Conference in the NCAA-which includes the University of Scranton- has said it will release its winter schedules on Dec. 4.
“We can’t compare ourselves to a post secondary school, or anyone else for that matter; we have to worry about the safety of our own students first and do what is best for our district and community at large,” he said. “Honestly, we can just encourage (our athletes) to keep working and hope for the best.”