Commentary: WIAA makes tough call to delay the start of sports

Difficult to plan for sports when there is no set plan for school just yet

It is official: Sports, if there are high school sports this fall, will be delayed.

Paul Valencia, Reporter
Paul Valencia

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) has made a change to the sports schedule for the upcoming academic year. Practices for fall sports have been pushed back a few weeks as the state’s governing body of high school sports tries to save the season during the pandemic. 

Football practice, originally scheduled to begin Aug. 19, is now on the WIAA schedule for Sept. 5. All other fall sports moved from Aug. 24 to Sept. 7. (Football always starts before other sports because football players need more practices in order to be eligible to play in a game.)

The WIAA’s executive board made the decision after its meeting Tuesday.

“The board will continue to work with staff, member schools, and state agencies to monitor the impact of COVID-19,” the WIAA said in a press release issued Tuesday evening.

The board plans to make its next statement concerning the start of fall sports on July 22. In the coming weeks, the WIAA will work to create a fall schedule with the adjusted start dates, the release noted. 

Those are the facts, as we know them right now. If there is a fall sports season, official practice will not start until September. 

Beyond that — how many contests can be scheduled for each sport, any playoff format — just speculation. 

Just about every coach, every athletic director, members of the WIAA, and surely, all in the high school sports media, have been asked about what’s going to happen.

It is a brief conversation: We. Don’t. Know.

Any inkling on how I think high school sports will return has no more weight than any brainstorm you have. There is no journalist, AD, coach, or player out there who knows what is going to happen in the coming weeks, the coming months. 

There is no inside source here to tell us for sure. How do I know this? Because the inside sources don’t know.

Here we are, in the second week of July, and there is no definitive plan for school. Oh sure, some districts have put out surveys. Some have sent out proposals for what the school year might look like starting in September. But the key word is might. 

If there is no definitive plan for how schools will perform their main mission — teaching students — how could the WIAA possibly have a definitive plan for sports? 

While it might not have been a popular move, the WIAA did its members a favor on Tuesday. Can’t ask school districts to prepare for sports before there is a plan for school.

The WIAA’s decision buys a few more weeks of time for the tough decisions to be made. 

This past spring, we had to celebrate the spring athletes virtually. We had to salute the seniors who missed out on so much.The Class of 2021 will feel the impact of the pandemic, as well. The fall sports season has already changed. 

I want sports. I need sports. So, right now, with no speculation on my part, I’m just hoping there will be football practice on Sept. 5. I’m hoping volleyball, soccer, swimming, tennis, and golf will be practicing on Sept. 7. 

None of this is ideal.

But after all we have gone through, it is safe to say that most of us would take a fall sports season, even if it starts a few weeks late. 

Because if there are sports in September, it will mean a plan is in place for school, and, hopefully, it will mean we have had some uplifting news in this battle with COVID-19.