Traditional autumn sports are back in Europe, but not on regular schedules.
Stuttgart’s Jordan McCullough broke the Ramstein defense in the DODEA-Europe first division football final on November 2, 2019. Stuttgart won the match in Kaiserslautern, Germany 30-0. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
Athletic coordinator Kathy Clemons said Thursday that DODEA-Europe will be making a “cautious return to a regular schedule” of high school sports this fall, despite competition being severely restricted in some schools.
Armed with measures to limit exposure to the coronavirus pandemic that wiped out most extracurricular competitions last year, Clemons said training could begin on Monday across Europe, even though the first competitions weren’t held until September 11.
Clemons said that except for schools in Belgium and the Netherlands that compete with schools based in Germany, teams will not cross country borders to compete.
This means that the European champions will not be crowned in football, volleyball, tennis and cross country. It also means that schools in the UK, Spain, Bahrain and Turkey are struggling to find matches against international or local club teams.
Clemons said he hopes to publish the schedules this week, but cautioned that they “will not be fixed.” We may have changes and adjustments throughout the season depending on host country and community restrictions. “
The last DODEA-Europe volleyball champions to be crowned were the Ramstein Royals after their victory over Stuttgart in Kaiserslautern on November 2, 2019. DODEA-Europe plans an autumn sports season for 2021. (Michael Abrams)
However, the return of fall sports like soccer and volleyball is a huge step forward for both players and fans.
“It’s a victory,” he said. “Not everything will be capitalized the way people want it to. But it’s definitely better than last year.
Not only will the one-month training give athletes a chance to re-adapt to their sport, it will also give schools a chance to see if they can make teams sustainably. This is especially true of a sport such as football in Italy. Only Napoli, Vicenza and Aviano have lined up in recent years. Sigonella could do so this year and Rota could join them in Spain later in the fall if conditions permit. Marymount International and the American Overseas School of Rome do not organize football teams, but they are expected to join the DODEA Schools in other sports.
SHAPE will compete in Belgium in the local football league.
Other teams from segregated schools in other countries can try it, too, though Clemons says it can be difficult to manage at the end of the year.
Although DODEA canceled close contact sports last year, Clemons said athletes and coaches will not currently be required to be vaccinated to participate.
As for those who want to watch matches, Clemons said masks and social distancing will be necessary and seats will be limited to volleyball, the only indoor sport of the season. Fan access may vary by military community.
“We want families to be able to watch their children play, but we want to be very careful about that,” Clemons said. “We don’t want to do anything that might put our athletes or coaches at risk.”
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