Samaya Morin spikes the ball at a Lake Stevens volleyball practice last November. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Samaya Morin spikes the ball at a Lake Stevens volleyball practice last November. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Guidelines set for fall prep sports

WIAA outlines the requirements for practices, competitions, with the requirements varying by sport.

The blueprint for conducting high school sports in the fall amidst the coronavirus pandemic has arrived.

The WIAA, the state’s governing body for high school sports, released its guidelines for conducting fall athletics Monday afternoon. High school sports have been suspended since March because of the coronavirus outbreak, and the document released Monday outlines the requirements for returning to practices and competitions, with the requirements varying by sport.

That means a lower-risk sport such as cross country will be able to return to competition sooner than a higher-risk sport such as football.

“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,” the document stated. “There will also likely be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held. While we would typically have reservations regarding such inequities, the (National Federation of State High School Associations’ Sports Medicine Advisory Committee) endorses the idea of returning students to school-based athletics and activities in any and all situations where it can be done safely and in alignment with reopening policies set forth by the local school district and (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) framework.”

The document ties the return of high school sports to Washington State’s four-phase reopening plan. Each sport is broken down individually, stating what level of practice or competition is allowed during each phase. Snohomish County is currently in Phase 2, during which all sports are allowed to hold workouts in pods of five, with the same five individuals always working out together, as well as no sharing of a ball.

In Phase 3, sports designated as lower risk (cross country) are allowed to begin competition, while sports designated as moderate risk (volleyball, girls soccer) are allowed to begin competition in Phase 4.

For football and girls swimming, it is not clear exactly when competition can begin.

Football is designated a higher-risk sport, and the football-specific plan implies that games can begin in Phase 4, but it does not state that explicitly. In the general guidelines for Phase 4 that aren’t sport specific, moderate-risk sports are allowed to begin competition, but there’s no mention of higher-risk sports being allowed to resume games. In addition, in the football-specific Phase 3 guidance, players still aren’t allowed to use the same ball.

Meanwhile, girls swimming is labeled a low-risk sport, which in the general guidelines means meets should be allowed to begin in Phase 3. However, the swimming-specific plan states that in Phase 3 gatherings at indoor pools cannot exceed 10 individuals.

No sport-specific guidelines were released regarding boys tennis, though in the general guidelines it was listed as a moderate-risk sport.

A call was placed to the WIAA office late Monday afternoon in an attempt to get clarifications. It was met with a voicemail message saying the offices closed at 4 p.m.

Tying the return of high school sports to the state’s phases means that different counties will be able to resume at different times — there are currently 15 counties that have advanced to Phase 3, while three counties remain in Phase 1 — and that makes competitions between schools from different counties challenging. Wesco, which contains most of the schools in Snohomish County, also includes schools from King County.

Snohomish County is eligible to apply to move into Phase 3 on Friday, provided the county meets criteria regarding coronavirus infection rate, hospital capacity, etc. The county has not yet indicated whether it intends to apply for Phase 3 on Friday.

In a video accompanying the document, incoming WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman emphasized the need for schools to follow the guidelines.

“It is absolutely critical that people do not get out in front of this, that we continue to be cautious as we move forward,” Hoffman said. “The key to us having the opportunity for students to compete and participate in the fall is going to depend on how healthy we come into that situation. As we fine tune and perfect these guidelines, we’re hoping we’ll be able to play throughout the fall.

“If we have people who get out there too quickly — and several people have challenged the state and myself as well as our team on, ‘Why aren’t we doing it more like other states?’ — what we are now seeing is those other states that went too fast are having to go really slow to catch back up,” Hoffman continued. “We want to make sure to make consistent progress to give every child in our state that wants to participate in our education-based activities the opportunity to do that this fall.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Granite Falls' Kaleb Roberts rushes with Sultan's Kaden Harwick closing Friday night in Sultan on February 26, 2021 (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Friday night lights finally back on

Granite Falls beats rival Sultan in OT in the area’s first prep football game in more than 15 months.

Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodriguez waits to bat during spring training baseball practice Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Mariners prospect learning from Seattle icon

Julio Rodriguez, just barely 20 years old, is relishing an opportunity to work with Ichiro Suzuki.

Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin (0), left, and center Christian Koloko (35) smother Washington forward Nate Roberts (1) as they fight for a loose ball goes to the ground in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
Huskies edged by Arizona in regular-season finale

Washington’s difficult regular season comes to an end with a hard-fought 75-74 loss on the road.

High School football teams across Snohomish County are closing in on their first game in over a year. (Herald file photos)
Prep football: Key games and the area’s complete schedule

The first H.S. football game in the county in over a year is set to take place this coming Friday.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, right, talks to quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Seahawks defeated the Dolphins 31-23.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Reports show growing divide between Wilson, Seahawks

But despite the star quarterback’s apparent unhappiness, a trade in 2021 remains unlikely.

Austin Johnson, 26 years-old, trains on the Centennial Trail in Lake Stevens and is planning to do a 24-hour run to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
24 hours, 80 miles, $23k raised for mental health

Austin Johnson completes a 24-hour run along the Centennial Trail to raise money for suicide prevention.

Quarterback Tanner Jellison runs a play with running backs Jay Roughton, left, and Trayce Hanks as the Lake Stevens High School football team conducts its first practice, marking the first day of practice for fall sports in the Wesco division, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Lake Stevens, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Wesco high school sports teams’ long layoff finally ends

For the first time in more than 450 days, Wesco fall athletes gathered for official practices.

Everett Silvertips' Jake Christiansen takes a shot on goal during the game on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Silvertips release abbreviated 24-game schedule

Everett will open its season against Spokane at Angel of the Winds Arena on March 20.

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert passes the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against San Diego in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Gonzaga’s Kispert finalist for Erving Award

The Edmonds native is among the final five to be the top small forward in college basketball.

A law enforcement officer looks over a damaged vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes suburb of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
L.A. sheriff calls Tiger Woods crash ‘purely an accident’

Deputies saw no evidence the golf star was impaired by drugs or alcohol after Tuesday’s rollover.

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto talks about the suspension of second baseman Robinson Cano, before the team's baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, in Seattle. Cano was suspended 80 games for violating baseball's joint drug agreement. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Mariners doing damage control with players after Mather’s video

GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais say the players involved have every right to be upset.

Arizona Diamondbacks' Travis Snider singles against the Texas Rangers during a spring training baseball game Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Community sports roundup: Ex-Jackson star Snider joins Braves

Plus, a former Monroe QB is excelling at Whitworth, the Silvertips sign a former T-bird, and more.