Wait longer and play less. The consequences of a pandemic year have delivered another blow to high schools sports in the state.
In the latest round of modifications to the 2020-2021 prep calendar, the WIAA's Executive Board voted on Tuesday night to postpone the tentative start of winter sports for a month and shorten the three seasons in 2021 to seven weeks.
The WIAA's adjustment is in response to "surging COVID-19 cases around the state," according to the announcement, making it highly unlikely that the original start for winter practice on Dec. 28 could have received the green light.
The winter season, which includes basketball and wrestling as high-risk sports, is scheduled to start with practices on Feb. 1 and end with a regional event March 20.
The fall sports season, which was moved to 2021 during the first major adjustment last summer, will start practice on March 15 — a week earlier for football — and end on May 1. Football is the lone high-risk in this season.
The traditional spring season, which has no high-risk sports, begins April 26 and ends on June 12.
With the postponement of the winter season, the Executive Board on Tuesday also approved extending the open-coaching period to Jan. 23. The window gives coaches an opportunity to have contact with athletes similar to the summer session.
In October, the Washington State Department of Health and WIAA issued new guidelines for returning to play, featuring a positivity rate metric tied to high-, moderate- and low-risk sports. In the first weeks of this month, the metric wouldn't even allow for low-risk sports.
Earlier this month, before the statewide spike in COVID cases, the WIAA released a plan and timetable for either sticking with the original schedule for winter sports or possibly moving the season. If 50 percent of a classification's schools weren't eligible under the state guidance then the season would be moved, a decision that was set to be announced the first week of December.
The WIAA has been advocating for an adjustment in the guideline metrics, urging state health officials to see how a return to play can be done safely and at low risk.
With the current guidance, volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball and bowling are deemed moderate risk.