The blurry picture that is the state's 2020 high school fall sports season, thanks to an update by the Maine Principals’ Association on Thursday, July 30, has begun to take focus.

Tremendous and far-reaching adjustments have been made necessary by the on-going COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

After the MPA announced on July 21 its intention to shorten the length of the high school sports season — which in Maine consists of football, soccer, field hockey, volleyball, golf and cross country — the length of several of those seasons now are public knowledge.

Read entire MPA guidelines document by clicking on link below.

Football, typically a nine-week regular season with each team to play eight games with one bye week, will be trimmed to a seven-week regular season, with each team to play six games with one bye week.

Soccer, field hockey and volleyball, all of which typically have 14-game regular seasons, will now be shortened to 10 games, with no minimum number of games specified.

Scheduling in golf and cross country, to this point, has had no revisions to the length of their seasons.

More specific guidelines for each sport, including potential postseason scenarios, will be forthcoming.

The MPA also has offered additional clarity on Phases 3-4 of the organization’s four-phase plan to have student-athletes safely return to school-sponsored athletics. Previously, only Phases 1-2 were known.

Phases 1-2 — with Phase 1 from Monday, July 6 to Sunday, July 19 and Phase 2 from Monday, July 20 to Sunday, Aug. 2 — are less sport-specific training and more conditioning, strength training, agility and individual skill activities.

Phase 3, which goes Monday, Aug. 3 to Sunday, Aug. 23, will be the extended conditioning and acclimatization period.

While many of the safety protocols from the first two phases remain, Phase 3 allows larger gatherings of student-athletes with up to 100 permitted outside (indoor groups continue to be 10 or fewer). One-on-one drills are still prohibited, but team-oriented drills are permitted, so long as social distancing continues.

Phase 4, which goes from Monday, Aug. 24 to Monday, Sept. 7, essentially is the same as Phase 3, but only fall sports will be permitted.

The official start of the high school fall sports season will begin Tuesday, Sept. 8, with the first countable regular-season game/event for any sport no earlier than 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17.

On Friday, July 31, the administration of Maine Gov. Janet Mills gave Maine schools in all 16 counties an initial assessment that would allow them to have in-person education in the fall. The system categorizes counties by three color-based designations: Green, yellow and red. All 16 counties received a green designation.

In-person education is imperative for high school athletics, in particular, as school-sponsored athletics cannot take place without in-person education.

Previously, the 2020 high school spring sports season was canceled due to COVID-19.

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com or by phone at 594-4401.