This article on Northeast Volleyball Club was written by Melanie Savage and published in the Hartford Courant on August 24, 2020.
After the CIAC put a temporary halt to activities surrounding the upcoming fall sports season, volleyball clubs and coaches from across the state encouraged the organization to reconsider pushing the girls’ volleyball season to the spring, citing successful, and safe, summer seasons.
Signed by Garrett Minyard and Cat Minyard from Northeast Volleyball Club, Pat Ryan from the Husky Volleyball Club, four other clubs, and high school coaches from across the state, a letter went out ahead of CIAC’s meeting with the Department of Public Health on August 27.
“We are writing to you on behalf of the volleyball clubs in Connecticut in hopes that you may reconsider your recommendation to postpone the fall 2020 High School Girls Volleyball Season to the spring,” read the letter. “We understand your concern around volleyball and high school sports, and we would like to address a few points.”
The letter went on to cite the safe operation of the state’s volleyball clubs within Reopen CT, CDC Youth Sports, and USA Volleyball Return to Play guidelines since June 17, 2020. Most clubs took a phased approach to reopening (starting with private and small group training in June, and moving to team play, scrimmages, and classes in July and August). Under this approach, clubs were able to safely and successfully run indoor and outdoor summer volleyball programs for athletes of all ages, with zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 among athletes or staff.
Athletes participate in a summer session at Husky Volleyball Club in Windsor.
“We created entirely new procedures and safety protocols, and have modified them as we go in order to play volleyball as safely as possible,” said Cat Minyard, from Northeast.
Among the measures taken, Northeast, with more than 500 total summer camp registrations and 2800 total online self check-ins since June 17, opened in phases, beginning with one-on-one training in week one, and progressing through 2-4 athlete sessions, small group sessions, and full-club team practices as the weeks went on.
“We’ve been very strict on the rules regarding the travel advisory,” said Minyard, noting that the club requires a mandatory 14-day quarantine before returning to the gym, regardless of test results.
“We’ve received amazing feedback from our families and parents thus far, who feel very safe at Northeast and know that our staff is working tirelessly to create opportunities for athletes to play in a safe environment,” said Minyard.
Athletes participate in a summer session at the Husky Volleyball Club in Windsor.
Husky Volleyball Club, New England’s largest junior volleyball club, is based in Windsor, and encompassed 60 teams last winter between boys and girls. Husky ran 6 weeks of summer training for approximately 400 athletes, after making up club team practices missed during COVID quarantine. Husky provided a questionnaire for summer camp players and parents, and adjusted procedures as the summer went on, with safety in mind.
Husky reported that 92% of players said that they felt “very safe” as a result of these procedures, with the other 8% reporting feeling “safe.”
“We also started on 6/17, and although some kids were hesitant, we had no kids drop subsequent to safety concerns,” said Pat Ryan, from Husky Volleyball.
Both clubs said they made sure to be in line with best practices for reopening and playing safely laid out by Reopen CT Phase II guidelines, the CDC, and USA Volleyball. For example, each player and coach needed to complete a daily pre-practice health questionnaire and self certification, stating that they hadn’t been to any state on the Connecticut travel advisory list. Players and coaches needed to enter and exit with masks on, and clubs were able to have athletes enter and exit through different doors to create one-way flows of traffic. Increased ventilation and checking of temperatures were among the other measures undertaken to keep athletes safe.
Among the other benefits to keeping young athletes involved with sports, Minyard cited the psychological. “[I] know there is a lot of compelling data around athletes’ mental health and increased anxiety and depression during quarantine,” said Minyard. “Another reason to keep youth sports going right now.”
On August 23, the CIAC announced that, after positive discussions with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, it had voted to restart conditioning for all fall sports. On Monday, August 24, schools were allowed to return to the conditioning activities that were being conducted since July 6. On Saturday, August 29, schools could begin non-contact, sport-specific skill work, in adherence with guidance from the National Federation of State High School Associations and the DPH.
The CIAC promised to continue to monitor the situation, with the plan remaining fluid.
Northeast Volleyball Club (NEVBC) is based in a state-of-the-art, three court volleyball facility in the Four Seasons Racquet Club in Wilton, and is already one of the strongest clubs in New England in just its second year. Most of the Class of 2020 seniors in their program are committed to play college volleyball, with many sophomores and juniors going through the college recruiting process.