Mountain View and Union ADs say they are excited to try to figure out a way to make athletics work this academic year
Two area athletic directors who also are head football coaches said the WIAA got it right Tuesday night when it announced the tentative schedule for the 2020-21 high school sports year.
Now, they just hope the schedule will work out as planned.
“Truthfully, I’m for anything that honors kids and their ability to play a sport,” said Adam Mathieson, athletic director and football coach at Mountain View High School. “I’m for giving kids an opportunity to compete. I think the calendar as is, with minor tweaks here and there, does that.”
“At first glance, I feel pretty good at what they did,” said Rory Rosenbach, athletic director and football coach at Union High School. “Overall, for all the sports, I think they did a good job. You’re never going to make everybody happy. It’s not going to be perfect for everybody. You put on different shoes and figure it out.”
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) announced Tuesday a calendar that will turn the school year into four seasons for sports. Football, volleyball, and girls soccer will move from the fall into late winter, early spring. The low-risk fall sports — cross country, boys golf, boys tennis, slowpitch softball and potentially girls swimming — are still scheduled to begin in September.
With the pandemic, though, all of this is “written in pencil,” said Mick Hoffman, the executive director of the WIAA.
If there is a Season 1 in the fall, there will be a long gap from championship week in November until the start of Season 2 — basketball, wrestling, bowling, gymnastics, boys swimming.
The traditional winter sports will begin practice Jan. 4, 2021, with competition to begin Jan. 11. Hoffman said that was to give schools and communities more time to assess the pandemic as sports get moved indoors. Practices for winter sports traditionally begin in November, with contests starting just after Thanksgiving or the first week of December.
Mathieson said he understands the philosophy behind that change.
“You want to do whatever you can to keep as many doors open as possible,” Mathieson said.
Those Season 2 sports would have seven weeks to determine playoff teams and then there is a week on the schedule for a postseason, which would end the first week of March.
Football practice, in Season 3, would start at the end of February. Girls soccer and volleyball starts the first week of March. There will be athletes still playing a Season 2 sport who also would want to play a Season 3 sport.
“That is a big concern. How much overlap?” Rosenbach asked. “What’s that going to look like, an athlete going from Season 2 to Season 3 or from Season 3 to Season 4?”
Football coaches are not accustomed to having to wait for athletes to finish another season before joining the football team.
“I’ll have guys coming out of wrestling. I’ll have basketball kids. I’m in a different place now,” Rosenbach said. “It’s weird, trying to figure out what this new format looks like. Every coach and athletic director is trying to figure out what this is going to look like.”
They will have to figure out Season 3 athletes going to Season 4, as well. The traditional spring sports — baseball, softball, boys soccer, track and field, girls tennis, and girls golf — are scheduled to start practicing the final week of April. The postseason will be pushed all the way to the week of June 21.
“Things are going to be different but it gives kids some semblance of normalcy,” Mathieson said.
The WIAA, school administrators, athletic directors, and coaches will be finalizing the details for each sport in the coming months.
Under the circumstances, though, if athletes finish basketball in March, then jump right into, say, football or volleyball, the logistics of that would be a good problem to have. That would mean sports are being played.
Greg Whitmore, the president of the WIAA’s 13-person executive board, said if the low-risk sports in Season 1 cannot be played in the fall, they would be moved to Season 3.
That is another reason to be optimistic, Mathieson said.
“You’ve got the best of both worlds. There is the potential to start the (school) year off with sports. But if not, you’re not cancelling them.”
However, if the reaction to the pandemic means Season 2 cannot start on schedule in January, the WIAA would be in scramble mode. Whitmore said there is no plan right now if that happens.
No matter, for now, there is a schedule, Mathieson said. Earlier this month, the WIAA delayed the start of all fall sports for two weeks. Mathieson prefers this approach.
“You grow a little fatigued,” he said of the delay, delay, delay approach. “Now, it’s ‘Here’s what’s going on.’”
“They made a decision, and now they let us plan,” Rosenbach said. “Overall, I’m happy with what they did.”