Area schools won’t compete during contact days

WIAA releases documents regarding reopening of sports, changes to winter sports
A big crowd at Shawano Speedway looks on during the first week of the regular season on June 6. While the number of fans is not limited on race nights or baseball games this summer, high school fall sports teams could play in front of no fans if restrictions are not lifted.

Morgan Rode | NEW Media
By: 
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

When the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association canceled the spring sports season in late April, it left open the opportunity for schools to be able to compete in some of those sports during a 30-day contact period in July.

The month of July is here and the option to compete in games against other high schools is still on the table, but none of the area high schools indicated that they would be participating.

The WIAA released guidance and recommendations to the state’s high schools on June 18, with a goal of allowing athletes to practice and compete wherever it could be done safely this summer.

“It will be the decision of each school’s district administrator to determine if athletics and other activities may operate in compliance with state, local and tribal health department directives as determined by each community’s most current level of risk,” the WIAA stated in its release.

“The health and safety of student-athletes, staff and community remains the top priority in determining all return-to-play considerations.”

While auto racing has begun at Shawano Speedway and youth, high school and amateur baseball leagues have started up, spring sports athletes will not be afforded the chance to compete against other teams in July.

Had schools given spring sports teams the green light to compete, travel would have likely been limited as much as possible. With none of the 14 area high schools — Bonduel, Bowler, Clintonville, Gillett, Gresham, Lena, Marion, Menominee Indian, Oconto Falls, Shawano, Suring, Tigerton, Wittenberg-Birnamwood and Wolf River Lutheran — competing, teams would have likely needed to travel to the Wausau, Green Bay and Appleton areas to find competition, where the number of COVID-19 cases is much higher.

Instead of using the contact day period to compete, schools will conduct practices if it is deemed safe to do so, like in past summers.

Bonduel Athletic Director Matt Dale said the school hoped to have an approved training plan in place after a school board meeting. “The main focus will be on skill and individual development.”

The WIAA also identified the potential infection risk of all the sports played throughout the year, as recommended by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee in a 16-page document regarding the reopening of school sports.

Several spring sports fell under the moderate risk category (baseball, softball, soccer, tennis and a few field events). It was noted that some of the sports could become lower risk if equipment could be appropriately cleaned between competitors and if athletes wore masks.

Golf and track individual running events — and shot put and discus — were under the lower risk category because those could be done while practicing social distancing and without sharing equipment.

Down the road

Looking ahead to the WIAA fall and winter sports seasons, several aspects of competitions might look different.

To start, the sports being played during those times are listed as riskier.

Football, wrestling, competitive cheer and dance are all considered high risk, with basketball, volleyball and hockey under the moderate risk list.

Transportation to and from game sites is another point of emphasis for when competitions return, as social distancing is to be maintained on buses/vans.

“Multiple buses/vans and/or parental/guardian transportation will likely be needed,” the document stated.

Social distancing during contests also needs to be maintained, so benches and sidelines might need to be extended in order to spread athletes and coaches out.

While fans at the Shawano Speedway or local baseball games are not limited, WIAA-sanctioned events for the upcoming 2020-21 school year could be played without fans.

The 16-page document listed three tiers of who should be allowed at events until state and local health departments lift restrictions on mass gatherings.

Athletes, coaches, officials, event staff, medical staff and security are listed as essential and tier one. Media is tier two, with spectators and vendors deemed non-essential and tier three. Only tiers one and two will be allowed if restrictions are still in affect when WIAA fall sports competitions begin in August.

Girls state wrestling coming, plus other changes

The WIAA held its monthly meeting on June 24, making several changes to winter sports, the biggest being agreeing to add a state girls wrestling tournament.

The first girls state tournament is set for the 2021-22 season.

“I think it’s so great for the sport that it was approved for a high school girls state tournament,” said new Witt-Birn wrestling coach Duane Potrykus. “The numbers (of girl wrestlers) have been going up dramatically and this will only boost that. The main thing is it now gives that bridge between youth and college wresting that is going to allow coaches to keep the girls out easier as they can have a goal to work for during their high school years.”

Girls would still wrestle boys during the regular season, but female wrestlers would then compete in a separate postseason tournament than the boys.

Another big approval from the WIAA Board of Control was to implement a computerized seeding system for the girls and boys state basketball tournaments.

The WIAA hopes to have the system ready for the upcoming season, and no later than the 2021-22 season.

The full WIAA release from its meeting can be found at http://newmedia-wi.com/content/wiaa-board-approves-winter-sports-changes.

sports@newmedia-wi.com