Even with so many things still subject to change, another step has been taken toward what high school sports might look like in the fall.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has released its return-to-play health guidelines, which were approved by the Washington State Department of Health over the weekend. The document, which can be found at www.wiaa.com, details how each fall sport can move forward with practices and then competitions during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While the document’s framework follows closely what was issued previously by the National Federation of State High School Associations, it is tied specifically to Washington’s Safe Start four-phase plan for reopening the state and individual counties.
Which, of course, doesn’t create much optimism in Yakima County, which remains in Phase 1.
Each fall sport has been assigned one of three risk factors — high (football), moderate (volleyball, soccer, softball, swimming relays) and lower (cross country, swimming individual). Competition in lower-risk sports could be held in Phase 3 counties with moderate-risk competitions allowed for those in Phase 4.
Each of the moderate-risk sports “could potentially be considered lower risk with appropriate cleaning of equipment and use of masks by participants,” according to the guidance.
How soon and under what circumstances high-risk sports could possibly return to competition hasn’t been determined yet. More details are expected when the WIAA executive board meets on July 7.
Attached to the 13-page guidance document are details for each fall sport on how to specifically handle health and safety precautions for each phase. This includes coaches, players, trainers, officials and spectators.
WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said in a video released Monday that “this is a very, very fluid situation, and the key to us having students compete and participate in the fall is going to depend on how healthy we are.”
Hoffman also cautioned against athletes and teams gathering too soon, ahead of the phasing guidelines.
“Several people have challenged the state, myself as well as our team, of ‘why aren’t we doing it more like other states?,’” he said. “What we’re now seeing is those other states that went too fast are having to go really slow to catch back up. We continue to be cautious as we fine tune and perfect these guidelines.”
Each school district will need to have these guidelines reviewed by their local health departments before moving forward. With counties across the state currently at either Phase 3, 2 or 1, the WIAA has said it intends to stage state championships even if all schools are unable to participate.
The latest document states that it is “not likely that all students will be able to return to — and sustain — athletic activity at the same time in all schools and regions in Washington.” It also notes that when “a school, schools, or district are closed due to COVID-19, all training, practice, and contests for the school(s) or district should also be canceled.”