With the new coronavirus outbreak wreaking havoc on high school sports across the state, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released an update Tuesday on the status of the spring sports season.
The WIAA said that if schools reopen at the conclusion of the six-week statewide school shutdown ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee — which began Tuesday and runs through April 24 — then the state championships will go on as planned.
However, the WIAA said any further delays could put the state championships in jeopardy.
The state championships are scheduled for the week of May 27-30. To avoid conflicts with graduations, the WIAA said no state events will be held after May 30.
“If we are able to return to school after April 24, we will host our state championships as scheduled,” WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said in a video accompanying the release. “If that date gets pushed longer, we will provide updates depending on what we are hearing at that time.”
Spring sports include baseball, boys and girls golf, boys soccer, softball, girls tennis and boys and girls track. Boys tennis also holds its state championships in May, even though it is a fall sport.
“As we’re going through this, we know that athletics and activities are incredibly important not just to our kids and the adults coaching and leading them, but also to our communities,” Hoffman said. “However, even more important is the health and safety of every individual.”
March 2 was the first day of practice for spring sports across the state. Many local school districts practiced for nearly two weeks before Gov. Inslee announced last Friday a six-week statewide school shutdown in response to the new coronavirus outbreak, which was recently declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Gov. Inslee announced Monday an emergency proclamation that includes a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people through March 31. A chart accompanying the announcement said youth sports games and practices are not allowed during this time.
“The instruction from Governor Inslee and the OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) has been to discontinue all organized contests and practices,” the WIAA said. “The WIAA supports that mandate and no member schools should be competing or practicing at this time in an effort to keep everyone in our communities safe.”
Furthermore, Hoffman stressed that athletes should not get together for unofficial practices or training sessions. He called on coaches, athletic directors and other leaders to help ensure athletes adhere to the governor’s mandate.
“Do not encourage, wink, wink, or ignore our students getting together to compete and practice,” Hoffman said. “We understand they want to be together. We understand they want to be ready if given the opportunity. But again, not at the jeopardizing (of) people’s health and safety.
“As we continue to get educated on this disease, we’re finding people who are asymptomatic are contagious. We’re finding out people are contagious before they even show symptoms. We’re finding out that younger and younger people are contracting this.
“So for the benefit of everybody and to speed up the recovery process for the entire state, please follow the directives and show leadership that directs your students not to get together to (train or practice). Let them do their thing on their own time, their own way, that’s in compliance with Governor Inslee’s request. But again, please follow it (and) lead with integrity.”
If schools reopen and high school sports resume following the statewide shutdown, the WIAA said athletes would still need to participate in a minimum of 10 practices to be eligible for competition.
Because of the long layoff, every athlete’s cumulative practice total would reset to zero, a WIAA official told The Herald.
However, the WIAA said a blanket waiver would allow athletes to achieve the minimum 10 practices in five days. For example, the WIAA said schools could hold combined conditioning practices for all athletes in the morning before classes, and then sport-specific practices in the afternoon. Under normal circumstances, the WIAA allows athletes to accumulate only one practice per day.
The WIAA also said that if spring sports return on schedule, it’s up to local districts and leagues to determine how to qualify teams and individuals for the state championships.
“Undoubtedly some creativity and imagination will be needed at the local level to make the most of a shortened season and to choose qualifying procedures that best apply to your league and district,” the WIAA said. “Local control has been a hallmark of our Association and those regular season/qualifying decisions will need to be made by local leaders.”
If spring sports return on schedule, the WIAA also recommended schools and leagues organize additional games and competitions for teams that don’t advance to the state championships. The WIAA said it would allow such events to take place through May 30.
Hoffman said the WIAA will continue to provide updates on the status of the spring sports season.
“We’re taking into consideration that for our senior athletes, this is their very last chance to compete in high school,” Hoffman said. “And I’ve gotten some very compelling stories shared with me of kids who have spent an incredible amount of time either because they missed last season, they didn’t perform as well as they did or they just wanted to make this last opportunity the best it is.
“So we’re going to do everything in our power to make that possible without jeopardizing health and safety.”