WIAA issues guidance for upcoming athletic seasons

— Created January 27, 2021 by Kacie Jo Voeller

By Kacie Jo Voeller

              The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) outlined a plan for upcoming seasons in a Jan. 19 press release, announcing traditional fall sports will run Feb. 1 – March 20 (Season 1), followed by spring sports March 15 – May 1 (Season 2) and winter sports April 26 – June 12 (Season 3). However, the executive board granted different leagues and districts the ability to reschedule seasons based on local community needs. For Whidbey Island school districts, timelines will vary, but each plans to offer athletics in the coming months provided all metrics are met.

              Mick Hoffman, executive director of the WIAA, said the current arrangement should help allow more participation in various sports throughout the remainder of the school year.

“Based on the risk levels assigned to traditional winter activities compared to traditional spring activities, the executive board made the decision that those spring activities will have the opportunity to play much earlier than winter activities,” Hoffman said. “The board will continue to monitor the status of activities over the coming months to ensure that those traditional spring sports receive a chance to participate.”

Paul Lagerstedt, athletic director for South Whidbey High School, said the flexibility granted by the WIAA will be helpful as the district plans to start its first season in mid-February.

“With the WIAA’s recent changes to our guidelines, they have added real autonomy to each league,” he said. “This is a great amendment, as leagues can now adjust when seasons start and what sports are offered, relative to the metrics in their specific region. In our COVID condition, we probably can’t get to perfect, or normal, but we are striving to get the best option for our athletes to compete.”

Oak Harbor High School’s athletic director, Jerrod Fleury, said while the year has presented challenges in athletics, adaptation has occurred. Oak Harbor plans to begin practices in early February, if the region (Island, San Juan, Whatcom, and Skagit Counties) is in Phase 2 and metrics are met. 

“The continual change has been difficult,” he said. “But we are adjusting each time new guidance comes out. Our coaches have done an amazing job of adapting their schedules in order to follow the guidance from the Department of Health (DOH) and WIAA.”

Willie Smith, athletic director for Coupeville High School, said the Northwest 2B athletic directors plan to start the league’s season Feb. 22. Smith said this is subject to change based on how many schools are in Phase 2, and a meeting will be held prior to the start date to determine if the season will move forward on Feb. 22 or if the date will need to be moved back. 

“As I’ve told our coaches and administration, I am cautiously optimistic and excited about this plan and feel it gives our kids the best chance of playing this year,” he said.

Lagerstedt said it has taken a team effort to continue to offer opportunities for athletes to take part in practices. He said safety has also been a top priority for participants.

“We are so appreciative of our coaches who have come out to support our athletes and give of their time to share the passion of their sport in a safe manner,” he said.

Fleury said having athletics available offers a way to support the social-emotional health of student athletes and allows them a chance to spend time with their peers, especially in times of hybrid or remote learning.

“Keeping students connected through athletics is critical,” he said. “So many of our students are struggling socially and emotionally. Participating in athletics gives them an outlet. They are able to interact and connect with their friends.” 

Smith said Coupeville’s league, among others, plans to offer competition and games provided certain metrics are met and safety protocols are followed. Smith said while plans are subject to change, the hope is to offer three six-week seasons with opportunities to compete.

“League championships are on the line this year so we are playing for something and games are meaningful,” he said.

              Lagerstedt said participating in practices and athletics gives students a chance to connect safely and said many in the community expressed how participation has positively impacted student lives.

“I get a lot of feedback from parents and kids about how much they have appreciated being able to do something that is bigger than themselves, being a part of a team and getting together with their friends outdoors, masked and safe,” he said.

For more updates and information, visit wiaa.com.