By Andrew Garda
COVID-19 continues to have an impact on high school sports, not just on the field, but off it as well, as fans of both Montclair High School and Montclair Kimberley Academy are about to find out.
To get the fall season to take place, schools, athletes, coaches and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) have all had to make monumental adjustments to the way things are normally done.
Social distancing, the monitoring of body temperatures, and the limited and, in some cases, complete inability to use locker rooms are just some of the things teams are having to adjust to.
The changes don’t end at the sidelines.
Both MHS and MKA have very strict rules and limitations on spectators at their home games for all sports this fall.
“We are excited to have a fall season,” said MHS Athletic Director Patrick Scarpello. “While we know fall sports in 2020 will not look like it did in previous years we are excited to offer spectator seating at our home soccer, field hockey, tennis and football games.”
There are limitations, Scarpello said.
Sports crowds will be limited to immediate family members, specifically parents and guardians, and those attending will be required to socially distance and wear masks.
MHS office staff members Monica Smith and Christel Simon had special personalized tickets made for the families of student-athletes, and security will be present at each home event to ensure COVID-19 safety protocols are followed.
For soccer, tennis and field hockey teams, the crowd will be all-MHS. Due to the size of the stands and the limitations of the area around the fields at Watchung and Fortunato, opposing fans were just not possible.
“Every opponent we play has been contacted about our process, letting them know the parents/guardians of our athletes will be the only people permitted to enter our facility for home games,” Scarpello said.
Unfortunately, they won’t be the only ones left out, as there will be no student section at any MHS sporting event this fall, meaning fellow students will have to follow the games from home via social media and texts from parents.
The only difference in the protocols for opposing fans will be for football. Woodman Field has far more bleacher space than any other Mounties field, and so MHS has more leeway in accommodating fans from other teams.
“For the three home games we have for football the visiting team will be given 120 tickets to sit on the visiting side of Woodman Field,” Scarpello said.
Both they and Mountie faithful will have to bring their own snacks, though, as Scarpello said there will be no concession stand this year.
The MKA Cougars are facing similar restrictions, said MKA Athletic Director Todd Smith.
Only parents or guardians of a participating athlete will be allowed on-site at home games.
“You must have the parent/guardian home Game Pass accessible on your mobile device to present to security when entering a facility,” Smith said.
As at Montclair High School games, all MKA parents or guardians attending any event must wear masks and remain socially distanced at all times, and there will be no student sections either.
Fans, parents or students from the opposing school will not be able to attend games held at Van Brunt or Muenster fields.
“[We want to] thank you for respecting this health and safety protocol designed to limit the numbers in attendance and provide the best opportunity for social distancing at MKA athletic events,” Smith said.