ATHLETICS: Each Fall Sports Has Its Own Specific Set of Guidelines Tied to Each County’s Phase of Reopening
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced its new guidelines Monday for a return to summer and fall sports amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The guidelines were approved by the Washington State Department of Health over the weekend and are connected to each county’s current phase of the state’s four-phase ‘Safe Start’ plan.
The WIAA is also extending summer activities for fall teams through August 16, according to an email from the WIAA on Tuesday. The out-of-season period for fall teams usually begins August 1 until the first day of the specific sport turnouts, so teams are now getting an extra two-week window to practice. Football will still have the maximum of 20 practices, teams will just have an extended window to reach that number.
The full list of guidelines can be found at the WIAA website. Points of emphasis include:
The use of face coverings for athletes during conditioning and physical activity. Coaches, staff and officials must also wear coverings at all times. Cloth coverings are acceptable and medical-grade masks are not required.
When a school or district closes due to coronavirus, there can be no practices, training and competitions.
Sports teams should limit travel when long trips are required by bus or van
Teams should hold as many practices and contests outside as possible to limit time indoors in a group.
The WIAA also placed sports into groups: low risk, moderate risk and high risk. The high risk group includes football and wrestling. The moderate risk group includes basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer gymnastics, tennis, bowling, swimming relays and track and field field events such as the jumps and pole vault. The low risk group includes swimming, golf, cross country, track and field running events and throwing events such as pole vault, shot put and javelin.
Each fall sport was given its own set of specific guidelines, due to these groupings, such as cheerleading, cross country, dance/drill, football, soccer, softball, volleyball and swimming and diving. Each set of guidelines changes for each sport during each phase, one through four.
The fall sport that could see the biggest impact is football, which is in the high risk group due to sustained contact between athletes.
With Lewis County’s current phase three status, the guidelines note that workouts should be conducted in groups of 5-10, which includes coaches and participants. There must be a minimum distance of 6 feet between each individual at all times. Athletic equipment can be used but must be cleaned prior to being used by the next athlete, such as weight room equipment, and footballs must be sanitized at the end of practice.
Centralia football coach Jeremy Thibault said his team and coaching staff are taking it slowly for the time being and not wanting to rush into anything. The football team is going to go on the backburner for a little bit and let the athletes play basketball and baseball for now.
“I’m not that much of a believer that people are falling off the face of the earth and dying, but they’re not my kids,” Thibault said. “I have to have other people’s kids on a higher pedestal and make sure that we are compliant and everything’s good.”
The team had planned to start weight lifting on July 20 in smaller groups, but now Thibault is planning to open the gym sometime after the Fourth of July.
In a typical year the Tigers begin spring practices the Tuesday after Memorial Day Weekend or the Monday after the final state championship of spring sports, whichever comes first. The Tigers would have already practiced four days a week for three weeks and scrimmaged six or seven teams by this point in the year.
Thibault has a tentative plan to host a scrimmage with Toledo, Napavine, Adna, Onalaska and Rochester near the end of July, but nothing has been finalized yet. He’s waiting to see if anything changes in the near future.
“I’m going to let it play out for a month before I put anything into writing,” Thibault said. “I’m optimistic we’ll have a season, but I won’t be shocked if we’re three-to-four weeks in and our governor says no more.”