New prep
coming to
Subtraction has been the norm for many industries throughout the United States in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there are those who continue to want to expand and see addition as possible.
The Woodstock Academy is looking forward to add not one, but two new athletic programs that will begin play in the fall of 2021 and possibly another in 2022.
Following on the heels of its successful boys prep basketball program, The Academy is planning to add a boys’ prep soccer team to its offerings next fall.
It will also move forward with plans to create a girls ice hockey prep program, something that was planned to begin this winter.
“In this time of the pandemic, it’s really exciting to have conversations about ‘What’s Next,’” Woodstock Academy head of school Chris Sandford said. “(The boys’ soccer program) is something we have talked about and worked on for, at least, two years having conversations about the direction with the Board (of Trustees).”
It is, truly, not easy to look forward because the future, especially the near future, is so unpredictable.
“I think we get frustrated and focus greatly on the day-to-day operations because of the pandemic and what’s happening today. We rarely get to talk about what’s happening beyond (Covid-19),” Sandford said.
For instance, this past week, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference postponed all high school winter sports in the state to, at least, Jan. 19 and admitted that it was a very optimistic date.
In response, The Woodstock Academy had planned to run an intramural program to keep its athletes active both on the basketball court and on the ice until January, but those hopes were thwarted when Connecticut governor Ned Lamont announced that all club and team activities including youth, high school, prep and adult, were also cancelled through Jan. 19.
Thus, the need for some optimism.
Sandford and Amy Favreau, the assistant head of school for enrollment, along with athletic director Sean Saucier have discussed the potential and the need for a boys’ prep soccer program.
According to Favreau, it would open the door for international students who hold F-1 visas to compete upon arrival in the U.S.
The CIAC currently does not allow international students on the visa to participate on a varsity level program in their first year at the school.
“The program is designed to combine domestic students and international students.  Our goal is to fill the team with students from the U.S. and abroad,” said Favreau.  “It is our hope that about half of the students on the team will be from somewhere in the U.S. We currently have partnerships with groups in Brazil, Spain, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, and Nigeria who are actively recruiting along with several conversations with students and families across the U.S.”
There is precedent as two other independent schools in Eastern Connecticut have hosted boys’ prep soccer programs.
“We’ve seen success in other places and we think we can replicate that here,” Sandford said. “It’s just like we did with the basketball program. The academic and athletic support here at The Academy is second to none in our region and this program will complement our current programs and will shine because of the support we will provide it.”
Saucier agreed. “I think growing the program is always a goal. We don’t want to get stagnant in what we do. Growth is always exciting and growing the athletic program, which will in turn grow the school, is a positive thing,” Saucier said.
The boys’ prep program will launch next fall with likely 18-22 players including some postgraduates and Favreau said there are hopes to offer a girls prep soccer program beginning in the fall of 2022.
A girls’ ice hockey prep program was supposed to have launched this fall.
But the virus made it near impossible to recruit student-athletes especially from a hockey-rich environment like Canada due to travel restrictions.
As it stands, hockey, as a whole, is a question mark this winter even on the high school level.
“I’m not sure what hockey will look like this year because they keep moving the (start) date. There are the issues of ice (availability) and travel, both in and out-of-state. We are still committed to the (prep) program 100 percent. Once we get by the pandemic and the public health limitations are removed, then we will be able to grow that program in the way we envisioned,” Sandford said.
Marc Allard
Director of Sports Information
The Woodstock Academy


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