This editorial originally appeared in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin:
Are you ready for some football?
That’s the question Hank Williams Jr. used to ask in the opening song for ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast. The answer was, of course, yes.
Today, it’s not as easy to answer. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work and play. Since March, athletic events have been canceled or greatly modified.
But on Monday the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released its Return-to-Activity guidelines for fall sports. In it, the WIAA offered a glimmer of hope that football could be played at the high school level.
The WIAA consulted the National Federation of State High School Associations and WIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committees.
“The NFHS and WIAA SMACs believe it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the nation to return to physical activity and athletic competition,” the WIAA release states.
The WIAA is on the mark to consider the physical and mental well-being of students. High school sports have been essential as a building block to develop successful women and men.
It would be shortsighted to simply cast competitive sports aside until the all clear warning is sounded. That could be years.
Instead, the WIAA is working toward safely allowing as much activity as is reasonable.
It means that in Washington state, where some counties have moved into Phase 3 of reopening while others are still not out of Phase 1, some schools will not be able to field teams while others can.
That could have a huge impact for the high schools in this Valley.
For example, Walla Walla High School plays in a conference in which most schools are in the Tri-Cities. That area is still in Phase 1 while Walla Walla County is on the cusp of moving to Phase 3.
That could mean Wa-Hi would have to seek competition outside its conference. That’s a concern, but not an insurmountable one.
Flexibility will be key moving forward.
As to football, that will require Gumby-like skills. It involves large teams and a lot of physical contact. Yet, the WIAA is not ruling it out.
However, it looks as if schools will likely have to be located in areas that are in or near Phase 4 (essentially few restrictions) to play football.
Meanwhile, volleyball, soccer and cross country have a much lower threshold to cross to begin competition.
Again, making every effort to have high school competitive sports is necessary for the physical and mental well-being of student athletes.
The WIAA needs to continue to make the best of this lousy situation.