Logistical challenges mounting for prep athletic directors

As the snow continues to fall, area administrators face tough choices rescheduling postseason games.

Snow already wiped out the vast majority of last week’s high school basketball action, with numerous regular-season finales canceled and a slew of district tournament games postponed.

And with more district tournament postponements Monday and Tuesday — along with the potential for more inclement weather this week — the challenges facing local athletic directors, coaches and teams are mounting.

“Talking to folks that have been in this business even longer (than me), they don’t ever recall a time when our winter postseason has been impacted the way it is,” Northwest District athletic director Robert Polk said. “So this is uncharted territory for all of us, including the folks at the WIAA.

“It’s all day by day right now,” he added.

Under normal circumstances, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association would require district basketball tournaments to be completed by this Saturday — the Saturday prior to the Feb. 22-23 state regional round.

Polk said the Northwest District received a waiver from the WIAA to extend its district tournaments, if necessary, through Monday, Feb. 18. However, if more postponements occur this week, even finishing by that date could prove challenging.

For instance, even after modifying its bracket to a shortened format, the Class 4A boys Wes-King Bi-District Tournament still has four rounds left to play. So, at the very least, that tournament will take four days to finish.

If tournaments aren’t completed by next Monday, the district could face difficult decisions regarding how to determine which teams advance to the state regionals.

“If we get to the worst-case scenario, then our District 1 handbook has some guidelines on how we determine who advances,” Polk said. “… Fundamentally, we would look at advancing league champions first, and then we would look at any kind of tiebreaker scenarios when comparing the other teams.

“There’s a few different steps we can follow,” he added. “(But) at the same time, because we haven’t been in this scenario in anybody’s memory, we might need to talk as a board and come up with a better process. … We would involve our District 1 board in any of those conversations to make sure we do the right thing and (advance) the right teams.”

For a team like the Edmonds-Woodway girls, there is growing concern over whether their district tournament will be played out.

The Warriors are seeded fifth in the 3A Northwest District Tournament, which has four available state berths. So, if the snow continues and the district isn’t able to complete the tournament, Edmonds-Woodway could be left on the outside looking in.

“If there was not a district tournament, I’d be devastated and I’d be so upset with the whole system,” Warriors coach Jon Rasmussen said. “I don’t know what I would do, to be honest with you. It’s gotta be (settled) on the court.”

The constant rescheduling of games this past week has been a logistical nightmare for athletic directors, especially considering factors such as a finite number of basketball referees in the area.

“One of the things we forget about is being able to have enough basketball officials to cover all the games,” Polk said. “… It goes way beyond just figuring out which day we really want to play a game.”

The inclement weather also has limited teams’ practice schedules. Polk said policies vary between school districts as to whether teams can practice or play games on days when school is canceled.

“There’s some cases where districts close, but the teams are (still) allowed to practice,” Polk said. “A lot of districts, if the schools close, then the gyms are closed and they can’t have practices or games.”

The Edmonds-Woodway girls haven’t been able to practice since last Thursday and have had just two practices since their last game on Feb. 1, according to Rasmussen.

“It’s tough not getting to even practice,” he said. “It’s getting frustrating. … I hope my team’s trying to stay in shape the best they can.”

The Glacier Peak boys were able to practice a “couple days” last week and again on Sunday, coach Brian Hunter said. But even so, the Grizzlies — like most teams in the area — haven’t played a game in 10 days and have lost valuable practice time over that period.

Even if the weather permits for district tournaments this week, local teams will be playing their biggest games of the year on the heels of considerable missed practice time and little to no recent game action.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have a few practices, which has been good,” Hunter said. “But I think the toughest part is you were in such a rhythm at this point of the season, (and) you lose that. And it’s the wrong time of year to be changing your routine and to lose some of the momentum and things you’ve been working on.”

More than anything, Hunter said, his team just wants to play.

“You work so hard, you do so many different things in the offseason and you get through the grind of the season, and the reward is right now — the playoffs,” Hunter said. “You get really close to the reason why you’re doing all this hard work and where the payoffs come, and then it’s delayed and you don’t get a chance to go play those games.

“The games that you remember are these ones that we’re not playing right now. … We’re just kind of waiting to start those games up.”

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