WIAA sports set to return, but start dates amended

Football, boys soccer, volleyball start dates not until Sept. 7
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Control voted 8-3 to amend the start dates for fall sports at a special meeting on Thursday.

The sports that are considered lower risk — girls golf, girls tennis, girls swim and boys and girls cross-country — will begin practice Aug. 17 under the amendment. The higher risk sports — football, boys soccer and boys and girls volleyball — will have to wait until Sept. 7 to begin practice.

The original dates fall sports could start practicing were: football (Aug. 4); girls golf (Aug. 10); girls tennis and girls swim (Aug. 11); cross-country, girls and boys volleyball and boys soccer (Aug. 17).

No decisions were made on the sports seasons to follow.

Under the amendment, should a school opt out of, or be forced to shut down a fall sports team, a spring opportunity will be provided for those teams. The final details on how that would work are still to be determined.

There was talk amongst the board about how to handle postseason tournaments, with the group deciding to wait to make a final decision.

With some conferences or schools potentially opting out of the fall season, there’s a possibility that postseason tournaments are completely eliminated. A regional or district championship was one option discussed for a way to wrap up a season if no state tournament could be held.

With the later start dates for some of the sports, no postseason tournament would give teams a couple extra weeks in which it could potentially schedule more games. Several times during the nearly three-hour meeting, participants talked about maximizing the amount of opportunities for athletes to compete in their fall sports.

An amendment to the motion that passed was made to start the high risk sports two weeks earlier — a week before the start of schools opening — but it was voted 9-2 against.

The meeting was livestreamed on YouTube and at some points had over 3,500 people watching as the participants discussed the pros and cons of playing in the fall.

Individuals involved in sports in the area were tuned in and excited when a final decision was made.

The news was especially meaningful for fall athletes that are entering their seniors years. “Having my senior season means I get another year with my team to run and reach goals — that alone is a blessing itself,” said Gillett cross-country runner Sylvia Hansen. “We have been working really hard this summer and I’m so excited to see where it takes us this fall.”

Fall coaches were also pleased with the outcome, even if the start of their season got pushed back.
“As with anything during this time in our lives, I’m disappointed that our season is affected by this virus but I am happy that they have kept at least part of our season,” said Wittenberg-Birnamwood volleyball coach Beck Rew. “I believe the move to keep fall sports is a good one for our students. Athletics and all extra curricular activities do so much for kids. They keep kids motivated, teach life skills, give them confidence, and so many other things that are good for adolescents mental health. We need to do whatever we can to keep our students physically safe and mentally strong.”

Shawano Athletic Director Joel Wondra watched the meeting unfold and was thankful for a decision, as he and athletic directors around the state were finally given direction on how to proceed.

Wondra said his first order of business will be finding out if the school district is on board with having sports teams this fall before diving into the logistics of the fall schedules.

He said some sports schedules — primarily the lower risk ones — will require less tweaking as the start of the season wasn’t altered too much. For the higher risk sports, a complete rebuild of the fall schedule might need to be done.

Along with finding teams to play, athletic directors might also need to find officials that can work the game, re-book venues and also redo busing plans. Wondra called the situation a “workable challenge” and was most thankful that the fall athletes will get the chance to play the sports they put so much time and effort into.

Wondra also noted that he wasn’t sure how conferences would approach the season. He broke it down into three options: allowing conference and nonconference games like in years past; only allowing conference games; and only allowing nonconference games, which would give teams the most flexibility should any issues arise during the fall.

He also wondered what might happen to multi-school sporting events, like triangulars or conference tournaments, but believes those questions will have answers as soon as ADs within each conference meet and make their new plans.