NOT OVER YET: Football, Volleyball Pushed Back to March 2021; Basketball, Wrestling to January
WIAA announced its tentative plan to move prep sports into four seasons Tuesday afternoon in a press release, keeping hope alive that high school sports will live on.
Most notably, football and volleyball are being pushed back to the spring with a March 8 start date, and basketball and wrestling are being moved to a January 11 start date.
The 13-member board met for multiple hours on Tuesday hashing out the final details before releasing its modified athletic schedule at 6:30 p.m., just 30 minutes before hosting a Zoom call with media members around the state.
“I don’t think there was anyone in our board meeting that felt we could get the high-risk sport of football played this fall,” said Greg Whitmore, the WIAA executive board president. “Volleyball, the same thing.”
Season 1 sports run from September 14 to November 1:
- Cross country
- Slowpitch softball
- Golf (alternative season)
- Tennis (alternative season)
Season 2 sports run from January 11 to February 28:
- Boys swim and dive
Season 3 sports run from March 8 to April 25:
- Girls soccer
- Boys 1B/2B soccer
- Girls swim and dive (alternative season)
Season 4 sports run from May 3 to June 20
- Track and field
- 1A-4A boys soccer
The National Federation of High Schools sports medicine advisory committee made the initial recommendations, and then WIAA merged those with Gov. Jay Inslee’s recommendations and then submitted them to the Governor’s Office and the Washington State Department of Health.
WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman and Whitmore stressed that nothing is permanent right now and the modified schedule could be changed again, depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.
“We know those are in great peril, too,” Whitmore said. “A lot of things have to happen in our favor in order for those things to happen. While the calendar does provide a visual and framework of what we’re looking at, it by no means is set in stone.”
Season 1 low-risk teams in the fall have to be in counties that are in Phase 3 of the state’s four-phase plan in order to compete. A moderate-risk sport has to be in Phase 4. A high-risk sport has to be in Phase-4 plus, which has yet to be determined. Currently 22 of the state’s 39 counties are in Phase 2 or 1.5 and are frozen until July 28.
If fall sports end up getting canceled, those Season 1 sports will be pushed back to Season 3 in the spring.
“If we can’t get those sports listed in Season 1, that doesn’t mean their hope is lost,” Whitmore said. “We’re going to do all we can to get those put in in the spring, it’s just going to make the job a little bit tougher.”
However, there is no contingency plan if COVID-19 persists at a high level into January.
There is a break in the calendar from November 9 to January 3, which the WIAA is using as flexibility in case there is a spike in COVID-19 cases among athletes, and with fall sports being the biggest question mark.
Some of the biggest questions answered include:
- The WIAA will not require COVID-19 testing. Players will be under the honor system
- If a player does test positive, anyone within close contact will be required to quarantine for 14 days, which could, as a result, remove teams from competition
- Department of health guidelines will determine whether spectators are allowed at events. Hoffman expects they will be allowed.
- There is no plan to shorten games, but that can also be up to the discretion of the leagues and districts
The postseason picture for all sports is still up in the air. The initial conversation is having regionalized championships to allow more teams to play. That could result in having multiple state champions per classification, per sport.
“If this is a year where we give out five state volleyball 4A championships, then so be it,” Hoffman said. “One, it will limit travel, and the other piece is it will limit some overnight or long trips, which are very costly for schools.”
Another plan the WIAA is working on is changing its rules to allow athletes to compete in two sports at the same time.
“One of our goals is to not force athletes to choose between two of the sports we offer, but we know there’s going to be some overlap,” Hoffman said. “We know we’re going to have to be flexible with our rules to allow athletes to choose two sports at the same time. We want kids to be able to participate in every sport they want to.”
Whitmore said he’s hoping to have some four-sport athletes if the WIAA is able to institute the plan.
The WIAA is planning to have another board meeting on July 28, the same day the freeze on county phases is scheduled to end, to discuss what criteria it needs to meet to have Season 1 sports this fall, which includes having teams be in a county that has reached Phase 3.
“It becomes a balancing act of how do we keep kids safe and how do we take care of the mental health aspect of it by offering athletics?” Whitmore said. “That was our focus all year… We know the decisions we make impact a lot of kids, a lot of coaches, a lot of districts.”