The Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District school committee overturned a rule instating goggles during play for the basketball teams Dec. 17. The vote was 3-2 with chair Stephanie Hawke, John Bertolet and vice chair Peggy Splaine in favor and Ruth Macy and Abby Jones opposed. The rule was established at the Dec. 2 meeting which approved winter sports.
The Dec. 17 meeting was held at the request of girls varsity basketball coach Brian Blethen to address the fogging and clouding of goggles which have been affecting practice. Blethen asked that the board make goggles optional.
“We're making due,” said Blethen. “Last night we used some of the fog spray to put on the goggles so they wouldn't fog up. That seemed to help, but it still does limit visibility and it does limit players' optimal performance.”
Athletic Director Allan Crocker said he has had positive feedback from parents on the availability of winter sports and all precautions being taken for health and safety. Crocker and Blethen said athletes and coaches follow all Maine Center for Disease Control and Maine Principals Association guidelines for basketball: Face masks, and six feet between athletes. Until Jan. 4 when full practices and interscholastic competition begin, teams are restricted from competition including one-on-one play or drills and scrimmages. Crocker said athletes and coaches are screened before every practice and coaches report attendance for every practice to him in case contact tracing becomes necessary.
Blethen gave a play by play of the typical practice: “We've established stations for all the players … As they all come into the gym, they wipe their feet off, take their outdoor shoes off and put their indoor shoes on ... They sanitize at the door and walk all the way down to the end of the gym and establish their spot. Then the next player that comes in goes to the next spot about seven feet (away) … For the night, they've established their spot and … we'll run a drill, end a drill and they return back to their seven-foot spot where they can hydrate and complete a mask change.”
Macy said goggles decrease the chance of infection by 10% and, by removing the rule, the committee is missing a chance to provide a safer environment for student athletes and coaches. She said her biggest concern is about not putting the schools at risk for an outbreak which would send everyone back into remote learning.
“If (goggles) were to go away I think basketball would lose my support ... Like most things, it's not always the policy, but it's the implementation … I think there's an area where we can change the administration of the policy instead of throwing out the policy just because people don't like it … I also got some feedback from parents that if this policy is overturned two weeks after it was made that it calls into question what's going to change in the future just to make it easier to play instead of safer.”
Said Hawke, “At the end of the day, everyone wants what's safe for the kids and I don't believe any other school is doing this and, personally, I think it should be an option.”
Splaine gave pause when it became apparent she would be the deciding vote. She said while keeping the goggles rule is good practice out of caution and does no harm, coaches and athletes should be trusted to conduct themselves safely. After asking more questions, Splaine voted to overturn the rule, but gave coaches the condition of giving a one-week report to Crocker on how athletes respond to the change.