A Reason to Rejoice

The Douglas Lady Cats volleyball team exchange high fives prior to a game last season. The team will have a season this fall, barring any spikes in the novel coronavirus.

High school sports will make their return for the 2020 fall season, barring any surges in the novel coronavirus 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, 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, Douglas 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 every day before a practice or a game 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.

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 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.”

“The WHSAA and all the activities directors will meet on Aug. 3 in Casper,” Douglas High School Athletic Director Doug Hughes said. “There will be more instruction there in terms of scheduling things and any changes that have to be made and further direction on how we will proceed this fall.”

Any updates will be posted on the Douglas Budget website and in print in coming issues.

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