Opinion: No need to blame WIAA for the shutdown of sports

Some fall sports could be in season right now, but school districts opted out

The fall sports schedule, Season 1, provided by the WIAA has been going on for a couple weeks now.

You’ve been following all the cross country, golf, tennis, and slowpitch softball action, right?

Paul Valencia
Paul Valencia

Oh no? There’s no sports being offered by the WIAA? You sure about that?

I’ve been noticing a lot of finger pointing lately regarding the lack of high school sports in our state. Many are demanding that fall sports, all fall sports, begin immediately. 

Me? I wish fall sports had its traditional start, with practice in August and contests the first week of September. My opinion is as good as your opinion, and my opinion carries about the same amount of influence as your opinion. Which is, well, no influence.

But if I’ve learned anything from 2020, we are supposed to blame somebody. Anybody. 

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of that blame heading in the direction of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

Earlier this week, I saw a map of the United States showcasing all the states that are playing fall sports, and highlighting all the states that are not playing fall sports. Washington is in that dreaded “not playing” shade of red.

A couple weeks ago, a group of students marched on Olympia to have their voices heard on the importance of sports, of returning to action sooner rather than later. I praised this group for its passion and its execution. A lot of adults could learn a thing or two from these high school students on how to make a point without being disrespectful.

Since then, there has been even more of a push on social media, at online town halls. 

Let’s. Play. Now.

But I’ve also seen a lot of people, athletes and fans, who seem to believe the WIAA can just make it happen.

Would it be a surprise to learn that the WIAA is offering sports right now? The organization made it possible for a Season 1, to allow the low-risk, outdoor sports of cross country, golf, tennis, and slowpitch softball to be played in September and October.

Exactly zero sports leagues in Southwest Washington took the WIAA up on its offer. It is believed that no school in the state is participating in these sports right now.

I would have loved the WIAA to announce in July that it was going to hold sports as usual in August, and then let the state government and school districts decide the rest. 

Well, in a way, the WIAA did just that. No, not for football nor volleyball nor girls soccer, but the WIAA did do that for the other fall sports, the “safer” sports. And you know what? School districts took a pass. 

This is not intended to push the blame to the superintendents. Instead, this is a plea to understand that there are so many moving parts. 

Superintendents have real and perceived problems. And yes, you can bet that the optics of allowing sports but not in-building school have had an effect on these decisions.

Then there is the state government.

Let’s take football. In order to play football under state guidelines, a region must be in Phase 4+ of the recovery from the pandemic. Anyone out there who can explain Phase 4+ to me? I’ll wait.

So while I appreciate and respect the passion for those who want fall sports to start right now, I would hope those same people understand that the WIAA is a bit handcuffed here.

The virus is unpredictable. The way our local, state, and federal government leaders have reacted to the virus has been unpredictable. 

I’ll always laugh (or cry) over our state’s reopening of golf courses. At first, golf could be played, but only two people in a group. A little while later, four could play in a group. Why? Who knows? Was there a huge study on COVID and golf? Maybe the wind changed direction in Olympia.

I’ll never understand that if Clark County has a COVID rate of 74.4 out of 100,000 people that it is safe to try hybrid schooling, but 76.1 out of 100,000 is reason to pause the plans for hybrid learning.

Maybe, just maybe, the state will change its guidelines for football and other sports, and tell the WIAA to start up right away. That would be unpredictable, too.

Then what? Do you think all superintendents will say it’s time to play?

We kind of already have our answer, don’t we?

Season 1 of the WIAA 2020-21 athletic year has been going on for two weeks.

Only no one is competing.