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Under current WIAA guidelines, Wolf basketball players like Hawthorne Wolfe will start practices Dec. 28. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The tinkering continues in the age of coronavirus.

After meeting Tuesday, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Board announced several tweaks to its plan for a four-season sports campaign during the 2020-21 school year.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state, a county has to be in Phase 3 of Governor Jay Inslee’s reopening plan to start competition in September.

But while Island County is one of the few to have reached that status, that might not be enough for Coupeville High School.

All of the Wolves new foes in the Northwest 2B/1B League are in counties currently mired in Phase 2, and a freeze on counties applying to move to the next phase has been extended “indefinitely.”

CHS also plays boys tennis in the recently renamed Emerald Sound Conference.

Every opponent there, with the exception of South Whidbey, is a ritzy private school camped out in Phase 2 King County.

Also, most large school districts, including those in the Seattle area, have made public commitments in the past week to opening the new school year 100% online.

Coupeville Schools Superintendent Steve King has set August 7 to make a decision on online vs. in-person vs. a hybrid education plan.

There has been no definitive statement on whether schools using only online teaching will allow students to compete in athletics.

While the WIAA did not issue plans Tuesday for how many schools need to be active for prep sports to start in September, it did do the following:

 

**Cross country and tennis are officially approved for play in Season 1, with postseason events set to happen at the end of Season 3 and 4, respectively.

Schools and leagues can opt to play Season 1 sports later, however.

If moved, cross country goes to Season 3, while tennis jumps to Season 4.

 

**Competitive cheer has been moved from Season 2 to Season 3.

 

**The start of football practice is moved to Feb. 17.

Gridiron players are required to have more practices than other sports, and this would allow the sport to begin playing games the same week as other Season 3 sports.

 

**Season 2 will begin and end one week earlier than originally planned, to better avoid overlap of students participating in both Seasons 2 and 3.

Basketball practices now start Dec. 28.

 

**The out-of-season period has been adjusted for sports not part of Season 1.

Coaching is not allowed between Aug. 17-Sept. 27, but teams can practice between Sept. 28-Nov. 30.

Football teams can have 20 days of contact practices during this time.

 

**Schools will be allowed to schedule 70% of typical allowable contests for all sports during the 2020-2021 school year.

Baseball (was 20 games, now 14)
Basketball (20 to 14)
Cross Country (10 to 7)
Football (10 to 7)
Soccer (16 to 11)
Softball (20 to 14)
Tennis (16 to 11)
Track and Field (10 to 7)
Volleyball (16 to 11)

 

**The plan (as of July 29):

 

Season 1:

Cross Country

Practice starts: Sept. 7
Competition starts: Sept. 14
Postseason: April 26-May 1
**Phase 3 for meets**

 

Boys Tennis

Practice starts: Sept. 7
Competition starts: Sept. 14
Postseason: June 21-27
**Phase 3 for matches**

 

Season 2:

Boys/Girls Basketball

Practice starts: Dec. 28
Competition starts: Jan. 4
Postseason: Feb. 22-28
**Phase 4 for games**

 

Season 3:

Boys/Girls Soccer

Practice starts: Mar. 1
Competition starts: Mar. 8
Postseason: Apr. 26-May 1
**Phase 3 for games (with masks) or Phase 4 (no masks)**

 

Competitive Cheer

Practice starts: Mar. 1
Competition starts: Mar. 8
Postseason: Apr. 26-May 1
**Phase 3 for competitions**

 

Football

Practice starts: Feb. 17
Competition starts: Mar. 5
Postseason: Apr. 19-May 19
**Phase 4 for games**

 

Volleyball

Practice starts: Feb. 22
Competition starts: Mar. 8
Postseason: Apr. 26-May 1
**Phase 3 for matches**

 

Season 4:

Baseball

Practice starts: Apr. 26
Competition starts: May 3
Postseason: June 21-26
**Phase 3 for games (with masks) or Phase 4 (no masks)**

 

Girls Tennis

Practice starts: Apr. 26
Competition starts: May 3
Postseason: June 21-26
**Phase 3 for matches**

 

Softball

Practice starts: Apr. 26
Competition starts: May 3
Postseason: June 21-26
**Phase 3 for games (with masks) or Phase 4 (no masks)**

 

Track and Field

Practice starts: Apr. 26
Competition starts: May 3
Postseason: June 21-26
**Phase 3 for meets**

 

PS — It appears the WIAA has recently adjusted what phase a county needs to be in for certain sports to be played.

Soccer, volleyball, baseball, competitive cheer, and softball are now in Phase 3, while they were previously listed under Phase 4, though three of those sports — all outdoor ones — will require masks if played in Phase 3.

Why are volleyball and cheer, which are held indoors and involve athlete contact and close-quarters breathing, exempt from masks?

You got me.

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Scott Fox and other CHS coaches are adapting to changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Coaches like to control things.

It’s how they set their teams up for success, both in the short term and long term.

So life in the time of coronavirus has to be especially frustrating for the men and women who work the sidelines at Coupeville High School, since so much control has been taken out of their hands.

While spring sports were outright cancelled during the first surge of COVID-19, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has been working hard to find a way to keep prep sports alive when the 2020-2021 school year begins.

Tuesday, the WIAA Executive Board released a plan in which the state would go from a standard three-season athletic calendar to one which in the year would be chopped into four parts.

If the plan holds, football, volleyball, and soccer move from fall to March, where they might be joined by cross country and boys tennis, if those “low-risk” sports are unable to play in September.

Basketball stays in the winter, and spring sports such as track and field, softball, baseball, and girls tennis hope to return along with the sun.

You can read more about the plan here:

https://coupevillesports.com/2020/07/21/wiaa-tries-to-keep-school-sports-alive/

But, as WIAA officials admit, “everything is written in pencil” as the country deals with a pandemic which has claimed almost 150,000 lives in the United States, including 1,500 in Washington state.

Having had a few days to consider the new (possible) reality, Wolf coaches share their thoughts with us:

 

Marcus Carr (Football):

We expected this to happen. I am happy that it was moved to the spring and not canceled.

Would have hated for our seniors not to be able to play.

Hopefully things will be to a point where we can also have fans in the stands.

With the amount of hard work athletes put into practicing and getting better it would be a shame for them to compete with no one there to cheer them on.

We may have to wait a little longer but at least we know that a season is possible.

 

Scott Fox (Girls Basketball):

We still have a long way to go, but I’m excited that we have a plan in place to shoot for, no pun intended! 

This modified season will be a welcome breath of fresh air for everybody.

We are used to playing in the winter so basketball isn’t as affected as the other sports; we just have to realize that everybody is in the same situation that we are in.

It will be nice to have Thanksgiving and Christmas off, then ramp up for basketball.

I told the kids that if we are the first sport out of the gate, let’s set the tone in our new league about Coupeville sports.

We’ll be ready!

 

Kyle Nelson (Girls Soccer):

I appreciate that WIAA is getting creative to try and give everyone an opportunity to play this year.

Plus, I am familiar with soccer in the spring.

Just excited for a chance to play in our new league, even if I have to wait a bit longer.

 

Brad Sherman (Boys Basketball):

I’m grateful for the WIAA effort to make this work given the circumstances.

Certainly I really feel for our guys (and all of our CHS athletes).

None of this is easy. And I don’t think many realize how much these kids are giving up.

But I think the message has to be: We can spend our time being frustrated over things we can’t control, or we can focus on the things we can.

The date and structure of our season changed. But at the end of the day, it’s a date.

What hasn’t changed is how hard our boys worked this summer.

It hasn’t changed the big goals they set for themselves this season. It hasn’t changed how much they love the game.

We (coaches and players) just have a little more time to prepare for the season.

I’m proud of our guys and how they’ve responded to the adversity, and the work so many of them chose to put in this summer.

I have no doubt this group will be ready to go whenever that date comes, and it’s deemed safe for athletes to return to play.

In June some of our guys, from various grade levels, met and were asked to develop a motto that would be unique to the 2020-21 team.

It just needed to fit them, align with team values, and align with their goals.

And after a while they came back to the coaches with: “Nothing for Granted.”

Pretty profound if you ask me.

Team camp cancelled. Tournament cancelled. Retreat cancelled. Practices highly regulated. And a season in limbo.

And the message/mantra they decide on as a group is one of gratitude. Pretty awesome.

So while a season delay is tough, I certainly think our guys are in the right mindset to tackle the challenge head-on.

 

Cory Whitmore (Volleyball):

What odd times we live in and no doubt there will be more curveballs thrown our way (had to throw in a sport analogy).

I guess my thinking is that there is a lot to be grateful for in light of this new information from the WIAA concerning the change in seasons.

Sure, these adjustments make for some serious changes in our normal routines and future plans, but I’m very thankful that we have the tentative plan of actually having a season.

We can be thankful that fall sports have been adjusted instead of cancelled outright, as our spring 2020 athletic programs experienced. 

My heart goes out to all of the 2020 spring sport athletes, families, coaches and community members that were so looking forward to participating.

I’m cautiously hopeful that things will have improved greatly by the time our “Covid-season” rolls around in 2021 and we can get safely back to offering sports and activities for our Coupeville youth.

In the meantime, I’m going to try and focus on those things to be grateful for and encourage our team to try and do the same.

Knowing how important it is to keep kids active and social, we will definitely get creative to provide that within the safety of regulations.

It’s definitely hard to always “look on the bright side,” but I guess what else is there to do but be hopeful, grateful and take care of each other?

No doubt these kids and this community will bounce back.

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Cross country runners could be in action this fall. Maybe. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The proposal for a new-look four-season athletic schedule.

Hope lives. For now, at least.

While acknowledging things are changing on a daily basis, and there are still a lot of questions to answer, the Executive Board of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association offered a plan Tuesday for high school sports being played during the 2020-2021 school year.

Under the plan, the WIAA will try to work around the COVID-19 pandemic by shifting sports deemed “high-risk” or “moderate-risk” by health officials, moving them from this fall to next spring.

For Coupeville, that means football, volleyball, and soccer are on the move to 2021, with the state going from a traditional three-season athletic year to a temporary four-season one.

Only “low-risk” sports — cross country and boys tennis at CHS — will begin practices in early September (or later), and then only if certain benchmarks are met.

The WIAA Executive Board, which is working with state health officials and Governor Jay Inslee’s office, plans to meet July 28 to hash out what that exactly means.

For now, the Wolves look as good as anyone, as Island County is in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, the minimum level required to play “low-risk” sports.

Counties must be in Phase 4 to play “moderate-risk” sports, while WIAA officials have said “high-risk sports” will only be viable in a “Phase 4-plus” environment, and what that means is still anyone’s guess.

If it’s decided the benchmarks for starting “low-risk” sports haven’t been met by the first week of September, those sports could start later.

They could also be moved from “Season 1” to “Season 3,” with no high school sports being played until January.

The plan, which you can see in more detail in the photo above, is, like everything in our pandemic-ravaged world, a work in progress.

“When you look at dates, those are definitely written in pencil,” WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman said with a weary half-smile during a follow-up press conference.

 

How the four-season plan would break down for CHS:

 

Season 1
(9/7 to 11/8)

Cross Country
Boys Tennis

 

Season 2
(1/4 to 3/7)

Girls Basketball
Boys Basketball

 

Season 3
(3/1 to 5/2)

Volleyball
Football
Girls Soccer
Boys Soccer

**Cross Country/Boys Tennis (if Season 1 cancelled)**

 

Season 4
(4/26 to 6/27)

Softball
Baseball
Girls Tennis
Track and Field

 

A few of the many questions everyone wants an answer to:

 

**Schools are currently deciding whether to go with 100% in-person classes, 100% online classes, or a mix of both. How will that affect whether a school plays?

Short answer: no one knows yet.

 

**On the new schedule, there’s a gap between Season 1 and Season 2. Why?

It’s to give WIAA officials more flexibility to start the season late, or end it late, as they deal with the issues around returning to play, weather conditions, and the start of the traditional flu season.

 

**Will shorter seasons mean less games?

Maybe.

The WIAA gives leagues and schools a lot of leeway on scheduling, so, if teams can play, it’s up to people like CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith to figure out how many games they can get in.

 

**Instead of three-sport athletes, if the new schedule goes down as intended, could we see four-sport athletes?

Absolutely.

While seasons will slightly overlap, Hoffman said the WIAA is likely to allow some preseason practice requirements be met by playing a sport in the prior season.

That would allow athletes to be ready for games in the next sport much quicker than in previous years.

 

**Could there be multiple state champs per classification in each sport?

Possibly.

If the WIAA is unable to hold traditional state tournaments, one idea being considered, Hoffman said, is to have multiple regional events, limiting travel, with each champ earning a state title trophy.

For now, though, it’s just an intriguing idea on the back burner.

 

**If teams can play, will there be enough refs and umpires to hold games?

Maybe.

A survey of officials state-wide showed 30% of them are “not comfortable working at this time.” If that holds up, especially in areas where officials are predominately older, it could present serious issues.

 

**What about monitoring athletes and coaches for COVID-19? And what if positive tests start coming in?

Currently, the WIAA is not requiring tests, but Coupeville athletes have to present a written note from their parent or guardian before each practice asserting they don’t have a fever or show symptoms.

After that, well, no one really seems to have a concrete answer.

 

**What about middle school sports?

That’s on the list of things to get done, but the WIAA hasn’t gotten there yet.

 

**Will fans be allowed to attend games?

Possibly.

“We certainly hope so,” Hoffman said. “It’s important for kids to play in front of the people who love them.”

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If Ben Smith and other Wolves get to play this fall, their season will start later than normal. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Fall prep sports, if they happen in 2020, will begin later than in most previous years.

As the world deals with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Board met Tuesday and made that decision.

The board opted to push the start of the high school football season until Saturday, September 5, and the start of practices for all other fall sports until Monday, Sept. 7.

The original start dates were August 19 and 24, respectively.

Coupeville’s first football game, from a schedule put together before the pandemic seized the stage, was originally to be a home game Sept. 4 against Port Townsend.

Now, in a best-case scenario, practices would begin the next day instead, with games not starting until mid to late September.

Football players need to put in 12 practices to be eligible for games, while all other athletes need 10 prior to their first contest.

But this is where a big “BUT…” comes in.

Under current WIAA guidelines, the only sports which can compete in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan are “low risk” activities such as tennis and cross country.

To play “moderate risk” sports such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball, a school will have to be in a county in Phase 4 of the four-phase plan, while the WIAA has yet to set a time frame for “high risk” sports (football and wrestling) to start competition.

Island County is currently in Phase 3, but positive cases of COVID-19 have increased in recent weeks.

Also, Washington state officials have frozen the ability for any county to move up a phase, and no county can currently apply for Phase 4.

So, while Tuesday’s announcement is a glimmer of hope, it is only that – a glimmer.

In a press release Tuesday night, the WIAA said the following:

The Board will continue to work with staff, member schools and state agencies to monitor the impact of COVID-19.

The Board plans to make its next statement concerning the start of fall sports on July 22nd following its next scheduled meeting.

In the interim, a committee of Board members, staff, and select WIAA stakeholders will work to create a fall schedule with the adjusted start dates.

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Under current guidelines, high school football is in danger of not returning this fall. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

“I honestly don’t know about football, as we know it, happening in the fall, and I don’t think anyone else does either.”

That quote comes from someone right in the thick of things right now, a man with decades of experience in high school sports, as an athlete, coach, and administrator.

It’s a feeling shared by many, after the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released its most detailed guidelines yet on how prep sports MIGHT start back up this fall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While a possible path was laid out for some sports to return, things don’t look good overall, and definitely not for football, the sport which typically brings in more money to a school’s athletic budget than every other sport combined.

As stated by the WIAA:

Counties in Phase 3 of Governor Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, such as Island County, can compete in “lower risk” sports.

For Coupeville High School, we’re essentially talking about cross country.

With “moderate risk” sports such as volleyball, soccer, and basketball, a county must be in Phase 4 for games to be played.

At the moment, as coronavirus cases rise in Washington and a statewide facemask requirement goes into effect Friday, the chances of any county jumping to Phase 4 — essentially a full return to normalcy — seems like a far-off mirage.

But, even if a county does get to Phase 4, the current guidelines leave three “higher risk” sports high and dry, with no timetable for a return.

Those sports — football, wrestling, and competitive cheer — “involve close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants.”

You know, just like basketball…

Anyway.

Understandably, people are frustrated, and a petition on Change.org calling on the state to include “higher risk” sports in Phase 4 of the reopening plan is picking up steam.

The petition, called Let US Play – Washingtonian’s for Athletes-End Sports Lockdown, is making a run at 800 signatures as of Tuesday night.

 

To see the petition, pop over to:

https://www.change.org/p/jay-inslee-let-us-play-washingtonian-s-for-athletes-end-sports-lockdown

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