The WIAA amended its schedule late Wednesday night to move traditional fall sports to Season 1, giving up to eight sports a shot at starting their seasons as early as Feb. 1.
Season 1 sports include football, volleyball, cross country, girls and Class 1B/2B boys soccer, girls swim and dive, slowpitch softball, golf (alternate) and tennis (alternate). Season 1 will span seven weeks in length, beginning with practices on Feb. 1 and ending on March 20. Season 1 sports were previously set to start March 15.
Rochester football coach A.J. Easley said he’s still not getting his hopes up quite yet.
“You’re excited but, at the same time, it’s like, when you read all the guidelines, we still have a long way to go,” Easley said. “We’re excited and the kids are excited now but, it’s like, things have to fall in line still for us to be able to do that. Kind of tempered excitement, I guess.”
The updated plan comes after Gov. Jay Inslee’s Tuesday announcement of a two-phase Healthy Washington plan, which allows most high school sports to play games once a school’s region is in Phase 2. The plan breaks the state into eight regions and uses metrics to determine when the counties in each region can move through phases.
All the regions begin in Phase 1 on Monday, Jan. 11, and Lewis County is in the four-county West region with Thurston, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.
Each region must meet four metrics before moving into Phase 2. Those include a 10 percent decreasing trend in case rates during the previous two-week period; a 10 percent decrease in COVID-19 hospital admission rates during the previous two-week period; an ICU occupancy rate that is less than 90 percent; and a test positivity rate of less than 10 percent.
Sports will maintain their previously assigned risk levels; however, the level of participation for each activity will vary in Phase 1 or Phase 2.
Seasons 2 and 3 will be reviewed during the WIAA’s Jan. 19 meeting. High-risk indoor sports, such as basketball, wrestling and gymnastics, were not included in the state’s metrics. Those sports were previously slated to begin Feb. 1.
“The change in guidelines allow all traditional fall sports to be played in Phase 2 while we still do not have a clear pathway to the high-risk indoor activities,” WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman said. “With that in mind, moving fall sports to Season 1 will hopefully provide the most opportunities to participate.”
In Phase 1, low-risk indoor sports may practice in groups of no more than five, while low and moderate risk outdoor sports may practice in larger groups.
In Phase 2, moderate-risk indoor sports and all outdoor sports will be allowed to play games, with a maximum of 200 spectators. Tournaments are not allowed. Low- and moderate-risk indoor sports may also hold competitions.
High-risk sports determined by the state Department of Health include basketball, cheerleading with contact, dance with contact, football and wrestling. Moderate-risk sports include baseball, bowling, gymnastics, soccer, softball and volleyball. Low-risk sports are cross country, golf, sideline/no-contact cheerleading and dance, swimming and diving, tennis and track and field.
While the WIAA will provide a uniform season schedule concluding in regional culminating events, it has granted each league or district around the state the ability to reschedule seasons to best fit their local communities.
WIAA staff plans to work with the state Department of Health to gain more clarity surrounding the guidelines that were issued on Jan. 5.
“We are hoping to receive more details that were not included in the governor’s announcement on Tuesday, particularly surrounding indoor sports and activities,” Hoffman said. “As we continue to gather more information and evaluate the new metrics, the board will be able to make better decisions about the remainder of the year.”
Another challenge, for football, is that once practices begin Feb. 1, there will be time for just 10 practices before the first Friday-night game. Football players are required to log at least 10 practices before they are eligible to play. In a normal season, teams and players would have around 16 days to get 10 practices in.
Easley has been cautiously-optimistic this entire time about football getting a chance to play and thinks prospects look a little brighter now.
“At least, to me, there’s a goal,” Easley said. “For the last little bit, it’s been like, not really knowing what to do. At least, now, there’s a goalpost there that you’re aiming for. The hard part is you don’t have a whole lot of control over that.”