Wisconsin high schools will have a fall sports season despite the coronavirus pandemic. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) approved a plan Thursday to push back start dates for most fall sports.
The WIAA Board of Control said several options were on the table, from moving fall sports to spring to scrapping the season altogether. Ultimately, the board decided in an 8-3 vote that it’s best to allow athletes to compete this fall.
Sports considered to have a low risk of coronavirus spread such as golf, swimming, cross country, and tennis can start practice August 17.
Contact sports including football, soccer, and volleyball have to wait until the week of September 7.
“We understand that this will make some people happy and others disappointed, but we will do our best to deliver to this membership what you have directed us to do,” said WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson.
Pediatric sports medicine specialist Dr. Kevin Walter said during the meeting that face coverings should be required for everyone who isn’t competing.
“I think coaches should wear masks, officials should wear masks,” Dr. Walter said.
Kristi Ortwein said her sons on Nicolet’s high school soccer team have already experienced a coronavirus scare.
“They started out doing the captains’ practices, they ended up, after some athletes had tested positive, they pulled back on having the contact days,” Ortwein said.
Although Ortwein has some concerns, she believes there are even more benefits of taking the field.
“If they can get part of a season in at least, for their physical and mental health and well being, I think as long as they’re being cautious and safe about it,” she said.
There is one caveat. School districts in coronavirus hot spots will have the option to move their fall sports to the second half of the school year. Royce Nash thinks it should be up to athletes and parents like him.
“Precautions do need to be put in place, but you have a country full of kids who have worked hard for their entire high school career,” Nash said.
Dr. Walter said athletes who test positive will have to wait at least 10 days after their diagnosis along with 3 days of being symptom-free before returning to competition.
Due to school districts having the option to opt-out of fall play, WIAA leaders said sports championships will not be a priority during the upcoming season.