The picture for how fall high school sports will return is becoming a little more clear.
The WIAA’s return-to-play guidance, a 13-page document that outlines how high school athletics across the state of Washington can resume play amid the coronavirus pandemic, was approved by state officials on Saturday night and released Monday afternoon.
The Washington State Department of Health, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Governor’s office were all consulted on a wide range of guidelines that WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman said is subject to change.
A pertinent question missing from the guidance: under which phase can high risk sports return to competition?
The WIAA says it’s too early to know.
Low risk sports can return under phase three of the WIAA’s guidance and moderate risk sports can return in phase four. The WIAA’s guidance does not say anything about under which phase high risk sports — football, cheer and dance/drill — can return to play, although the NFHS document was modified to say practices may begin for high-risk sports under phase three. That was taken out of the WIAA’s guidance.
“We’re still waiting for some more information,” WIAA spokesperson Casey Johnson said Monday afternoon. “Right now, obviously no counties are in phase four. It’s one of those things specifically that we’re going to wait and see how things develop before addressing. “
The WIAA executive board will meet July 7 to discuss the timeline for a return-to-play.
As counties around the state of Washington enter various phases of reopening, Hoffman stressed the importance of following state guidelines and addressed critics who have advocated for a faster return-to-play.
“The key to us having the opportunity to have students to compete and participate in the fall is going to depend on how healthy we come into that situation,” Hoffman said.
“Several people have challenged the state, myself as well as our team of ‘why aren’t we doing it more like other states?’ What we’re now seeing is those other states that went too fast are having to go really slow to catch back up.”
The document in many ways mirrors the national return-to-play guidance issued by the National Federation of State High School Associations in April.
“There shouldn’t be any radical changes, but please compare and contrast,” WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said in a video release Monday. “It’s really important you follow these guidelines as written.”
Subsequent guidelines for each fall sport, from football to dance and drill, were released. Each sport was assigned a committee made up of coaches and administrators, and each sport was assigned a degree of risk by the NFHS, depending on sustained contact and probability of respiratory particle transmission.
Football, cheerleading and dance/drill are deemed “high risk” for the spread of the novel coronavirus, while volleyball, soccer and slowpitch softball are considered “moderate risk” sports. Cross country and swim/dive are considered “low risk.”
Individual sports guidelines
- FOOTBALL (HIGH RISK)
- CHEERLEADING (HIGH RISK)
- DANCE AND DRILL (HIGH RISK)
- VOLLEYBALL (MODERATE RISK)
- SOCCER (MODERATE RISK)
- SLOWPITCH SOFTBALL (MODERATE RISK)
- CROSS COUNTRY (LOW RISK)
- SWIMMING & DIVING (LOW RISK)