Inter-Ac schools postpone Fall Sports seasons

On August 26, the Inter-Ac released a statement announcing that no sports teams would compete until January 1

Chris Ayres, Sport's Editor

Ever since COVID-19 ended spring sports before most teams could begin their season, the question has been whether or not the fall seasons would be played as planned.

”In early April, we were focused on trying to get kids back for their sports or extending the seasons into June,” said Malvern’s athletic director Mr. Jim Stewart. “When we knew the spring was being taken away, the shift immediately went to fall.”

In addition to national and state webinars about COVID safety in sports, Mr. Stewart also turned to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“They had very good information in their calls because there were scientists talking about what to expect and the realities of sports resuming,” Stewart stated. “Other Inter-Ac schools started doing the same thing.”

After discussing multiple possible plans, the Inter-Ac had decided on a league-only season, but this plan wouldn’t last.

“Things started to go bad when Governor Wolf came out with his strong recommendation, and then Chester and Delaware counties asked schools to wait for instruction until October 9,” said Stewart. “Safety always comes first and being responsible for our students and their families’ health is a huge consideration.”

While the health concerns are understood, athletes and coaches alike feel playing this fall was possible.

“As soon as I saw other states, especially down south, allowing teams to play, I assumed we’d be ok to play our league games,” said Jake Brownley, a senior from Malvern’s varsity football team. “I knew we wouldn’t start on the normal date, but I figured we would just get pushed back a few weeks.”

“All of our invitational meets got canceled, but we also have dual meets with other schools,” said cross country head coach Mr. Mike Koenig. “We knew it was not going to be perfect, but we could still have a season and give our athletes a chance to race. I feel like cross country, along with golf and some others, are on the low-risk side.”

Most athletes approved of the original plan of playing a league season.

“I thought the plan in place, that has since been disbanded by the Inter-Ac and replaced by the suspension until January 1st, was an adequate solution to the problems at hand,” said senior varsity soccer player Brad Corsi. “This (the league-only schedule) addressed problems that could occur from increased travel and would serve as somewhat of a contact tracing system since all play is within the league.”

One reason players were optimistic about their fall seasons was because of the success from taking precautions during summer training.

“The soccer team had been consistently training throughout the summer,” said Corsi. “Coach Barr and the players did a solid job wearing masks when necessary, filling out health forms, and social distancing ourselves.” 

Even though football couldn’t have their normal training camps, they were still able to prepare for their season during the offseason.

“A couple days a week we would condition at Malvern and lift in smaller groups,” Brownley stated. “We wore masks inside, got our temperature taken when we got there, and filled out our forms before coming to campus.”

Upon hearing the news of the Inter-Ac’s decision, many students and coaches were surprised.

“Every coach was surprised and a little disappointed when the Inter-Ac as a whole decided to bump fall sports back,” said Koenig. “It’s disappointing as a coach, but I also understand that the people who made the decision didn’t make the decision lightly.”

Many of the student athletes were eager to make their voices heard.

“It sucked to hear, but sitting around and complaining won’t do anything,” stated Brownley. “I think making your voice heard and speaking up is great, even if no one wavers from their position.”

“When I heard the news of the fall sports suspension, it was not long before I decided I did not want to sit idly by as this happens; I wanted the students’ and student-athletes’ voices to be heard,” said Corsi. “I created a petition titled “The Inter-Ac Fall Sports Season Must Be Played” directed towards the leadership at the schools in the Inter-Ac.”

Currently, Corsi’s petition has amassed about 2,500 signatures from students, players, and members of the communities surrounding the Inter-Ac schools.

“I hope it prompts the Inter-Ac to act in a way that reflects the interest of the community,” Corsi stated. “I believe that fall sports need to be played.”

Sports usually keep Malvern’s campus active after school, but without them, the campus empties of students almost immediately. 

“It’s weird after school now, it’s like a ghost town,” said Koenig. “Normally, guys are grabbing their stuff and going to practice, now they are just leaving.”

Part of the appeal of Malvern sports is the brotherhood and the connections felt between teammates. With shorter seasons and the possibility of limiting fans, students could potentially miss out on some of their favorite parts of their Malvern experience.

“The sense of camaraderie that you are always used to at Malvern Prep will likely be gone this year,” said Corsi. “The lack of sports in addition to the model for the academic day kind of makes it feel like we’re getting “Malvern to-go” this year.”

In addition to concerns about the feeling on campus, there is concern about the mental toll of not having sports until January.

“There is such an important social aspect of these teams that is being taken away by this,” Corsi stated. “Sports are a healthy activity that could and should be a break for kids from isolation and the craziness of the world currently.”

Koenig agreed that sports are important for high school athletes, and not having them can be detrimental to them academically as well.

“At the end of the day, sports are where their passion is, hanging with a group of friends, improving, and trying to win a championship,” he stated. “For the average student, without the structure of sports, they lose that self-motivation on and off the field. Losing athletic motivation, even between seasons, can cause grades to slip.”

While the current plan is to have all three seasons after the new year begins, teams were allowed to hold practices in smaller groups starting on September 14th, a relief for all athletes at Malvern.

“You could be with your teammates and friends working out and having fun without COVID being shoved in your face,” said Brownley. “I feel like when I’m playing a sport, it puts the pandemic on pause and is almost a return to normalcy.”