Speaking Monday before a large gathering of student-athletes eager to pursue sports that have not been played here in 15 months, Joe Vas, the East Hampton School District's athletic director, re-emphasized the protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing, that need to be followed if the condensed March-April season is to run relatively smoothly.
Asked for a crowd estimate, the A.D. said, "There were a ton of kids. One hundred? There were more than that -- football alone had over 50. Every program has a full varsity and a full jayvee."
That's saying something, for football has been facing a serious numbers problem for a number of years, and there was talk this week that few seniors would for various reasons try out for girls volleyball.
Eleven teams — teams that normally would play in the fall — began practicing Monday, namely football, boys and girls volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross-country, girls tennis, golf, girls swimming, and field hockey.
"We're very happy with the turnouts," Vas said. "It's a new world out there, but the kids have been great when it comes to following protocols. We want to keep them safe; we want them to mask up. Section XI has said masks must be worn on the sidelines, and that they are to be worn in competition 'as tolerated.' But we'll try to build their tolerance up so they can keep them on while they're competing."
There have been few coaching changes since the fall of 2019, though Nicole Cummings, who was to have been the varsity girls volleyball coach, "stepped down recently," said Vas, adding that he hopes she'll come back at some point. Alex Choi, who, following the retirement of Kathy McGeehan, was the team's head coach in the fall of 2019, was to have been Cummings's assistant this time around, but, given her departure, he has been named head coach. He won't have an assistant, Vas said.
Telephone conversations with several coaches on the eve of the season's first day were uniformly upbeat.
"We've got a good core, kids who've been playing on travel teams," said the boys soccer coach, Don McGovern. "The East Hampton-Sag Harbor team I coached in the fall, until December, did well. We lost one game, played in the tournament, and won it. And there were others who played on other travel teams as well."
The league season for the boys is to begin Friday, March 12, but McGovern has scheduled three nonleaguers -- with Pierson, Babylon, and Center Moriches -- before that date, thus assuring his charges of some playing time from the get-go.
He was hoping, the coach added, that the school board might henceforth permit juniors and seniors to attend school every day of the week rather than retain the "hybrid" system of alternate in-person and remote learning that has been in effect.
When questioned Sunday, Kevin McConville, the girls tennis team's coach, said the snow was off the high school courts, but that it would be a new experience for the girls, who normally play in the fall, to contend with the cold and the wind that the boys have become used to in the spring.
Ordinarily in inclement weather, he would probably have no trouble getting court time at East Hampton Indoor Tennis in Wainscott or at the Southampton Recreation Center, "but tennis is booming now, the courts at E.H.I.T. and S.Y.S. are packed, and so our chances for playing inside on weekdays may be slim. . . . I've given lessons as late as 9 at night at E.H.I.T."
He was expecting pretty much everyone from his 2019 team, which was a good one, to return, McConville added.
Kevin Barry, the boys cross-country coach, said over the weekend that 14 had told him they'd be coming out -- namely Aubrey Peterson, Manny Vilar, and Everett McCoy, seniors; Evan Masi, Amari Gordon, Aidan Klarman, Colin Schaefer, Julian Delfavero, and Avery Siska, juniors; Cooper Ceva, a sophomore, and Brian Riviera, Mikey Gilbert, Liam Cashin, and Chase Siska, freshmen.
Several of them, because they'd traveled during the February break, would, because of quarantining, get a late start. "And then there will be another break, for Easter, at the end of March, so we're not treating this as a serious season," said Barry.
"The idea," he said in parting, "is to get them out and have fun. That's the model for this year."