Fall sports return with COVID complications

Joshua Clark, joshua@glenrockind.com

By Joshua Clark



High school sports will make it’s return for the 2020 fall season, barring any surges in the novel coronavirus in between now and when practices begin Aug. 10, according to Wyoming High School Activities Association Associate Commissioner Trevor Wilson. 

What the practices and games are going to look like, however, remain up in the air as school districts across the State of Wyoming grapple with what will be the strangest school year of our lives.

“As of today we are moving full speed ahead to start when scheduled,” Wilson said. “There’s no way we can predict in a day or a week with (COVID-19), but we are planning to get started on Aug. 10 for 4A football, golf and tennis, and Aug. 17 for the remaining sports”

As the Douglas Budget reported in it’s July 22 issue, and in the Glenrock Independent this week, schools will reopen under one of three tiers laid out by the state, with how many students allowed to attend in person classes the main difference between the tiers. 

As of now, Glenrock schools are expected to open under the Tier One plan which will allow most kids to attend their schooling in person. Students with underlying health issues will still need to remain at home, and each student’s parents can decide to opt into virtual schooling if they are uncomfortable with sending their child/ren into school. 

How that affects school sports, remains to be seen. 

Teams have been allowed to hold workouts since early summer, but have been advised by the WHSAA to keep gatherings limited to 50 people outdoors and 10 indoors, while doing their best to keep the same “pods” of five to 10 people to limit exposure as outlined in the phase two portion of a document titled “Guidance For Opening Up High School Athletics And Activities.”

Sports such as cross country and swimming, and even volleyball, should be able to follow all the guidelines provided during that phase, which includes screening of all individuals present and maintaining social distancing.

For football, however, a true practice will be virtually impossible until phase three. Phase three allows for full gatherings of up to 50 people, but still recommends social distancing when players are not actively participating in drills.

“I’m going to look at each phase and try to develop drills that work for each one,” Glenrock High School Head Football Coach Ryan Collier said. “As a football coach, if we are told to stay within the groupings of up to ten, we would never get full team time at that point, so it would make it really difficult to install team concepts.”

As of now, the plan is to allow football teams to run full practices with some adjustments, Wilson says.

“For now that’s the plan. Contact sports are a bit more of an issue. Coaches are going to have to do their best to keep small groups together, but obviously they’re going to have to get together at some point for 11 on 11. Other than that, stay in those small groups and do drills together. There’s just a lot of things that are going to have to be done differently in order to try and minimize the risk.”

Another big question is what happens if a member of a team tests positive for the virus. Schools will be required to close for two to five days if any student contracts the virus, but no clear guidelines have yet to be established for what happens with sports. If they need to cancel the upcoming game or games until they can be sure who is and isn’t sick, how will that affect standings and playoff seedings? How far does it need to go before a season is cancelled? Those are details the WHSAA are currently ironing out with help from a state health officer.

“We don’t have those details at this time,” Wilson said. “Depending who it is and who they’ve come in contact with will dictate who has to be quarantined. Whether it’s a whole team or what we don’t know. If it’s football, a free safety can go a whole game without a tackle or contacting anyone. With offensive and defensive lineman, we know they’re contacting people every play. So it will depend on who it is and when it happens, but we’re still working on those details.”

For coach Collier, he understands and makes his athletes understand that even though sports are being planned, COVID-19 is a dynamic situation and they have to be prepared for both the best and the worst. 

“We’ve been on a holding pattern waiting on what WHSAA wants us to do but we have had those candid conversations,” Collier said. “We’ve talked about how there’s a possibility that we can get going and things can get shut down mid-way through, or miss games in the middle.

“So, we have to plan for everything but it’s one of those things that as a coach in any sport, you have to always have to be prepared for the unknowns anyway. You just have to be willing to adapt and move forward and do whatever it takes to get your team in the best position you can possibly get them in.”

Other areas, such as tournaments that bring a lot of teams together (including those from out of state) and the plans for whether or not fans will be allowed to attend events, and with what restrictions, will continue to be discussed in the coming weeks, with a meeting between the WHSAA and athletic directors scheduled for Aug. 3. Any updates will be posted on the Glenrock Independent website.


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