JAY — Regional School Unit 73 directors voted unanimously Thursday, March 11, to allow conditioning practices for baseball and softball to begin March 22 at the middle and high school.

“It’s been a weird year,” Spruce Mountain High School Athletic Director Marc Keller said. “There’s a basketball game tonight, cheering next week, the Maine Principals’ Association has said March 22 is the opening for baseball and softball.”

The remainder of spring sports will begin the following week, he said. Spring sports are coming as winter sports are culminating, which is not usual, Keller noted.

The MPA guidelines, protocols for each sport aren’t available yet but should be soon, Keller said. Spring sports lost their entire season last year, he said.

“I’m asking permission to begin softball and baseball on March 22,” Keller said. “The reason is that’s a week of conditioning arms. That week is very important. There’s no hitting, no fielding, only throwing a ball back and forth.”

The next board meeting is after that date, Keller said. The remainder of spring sports are scheduled to start March 29, he noted.

“My thought is give Superintendent Scott Albert permission once we have the information to say yes or no to whatever they (MPA) said,” Board Chairman Robert Staples said. “All spring sports are outdoors. There’s very little contact, very little side by side. The batter and catcher. It’s not like basketball, football.”

Spruce also offers track and field, boys and girls tennis and one student has played cooperatively with the Maranacook lacrosse team for six years, Keller said.

Director Joel Pike asked for feedback on the mental health, student wellness piece required as part of winter sports participation.

“It was valuable,” Keller said. “A good coach is going to be working on those things regardless, constantly working on mental health, leadership, developing teamwork skills, acquiring skills. It was good we had it in there.

“Knowing my coaches, I know they had it in there anyway,” he noted. “It was an easy transition for them, could put it into their program relatively easily. It worked pretty well.”

“I can’t imagine the MPA is going to suggest something different,” director Elaine Fitzgerald said. Mask wearing, socially distancing in the dugout, common sense things won’t change, she said.

“We’re not in the same place we were coming into winter sports,” Fitzgerald said.

A final decision on spring sports will be made by Albert once the MPA guidelines are available. Focusing on athletes’ mental health needs will also be part of spring sports programs.

“I want to thank the school board on behalf of our athletes, our coaches, parents and grandparents,” Keller said. “It was an amazing opportunity to participate in sports this winter. Our kids really needed it.”

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