While the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has announced some broad guidelines for the return of prep sports, it will likely still be awhile before local student-athletes return to practice or scrimmages.
Clallam County schools still have prep winter sports scheduled to begin as early as late December and that has not changed, said Dwayne Johnson, Port Angeles High School athletic director.
But before prep sports can return, much has to happen first.
The WIAA recently put out an explanation of steps that will be needed for school sports to return. The steps that are needed include: Gov. Jay Inslee recommending the return of prep sports; the state Department of Health providing guidance on required steps to return; risk management reviewing Inslee and the Department of Health recommendations; commitment from local school districts to return to sports, and the WIAA Executive Board reviewing schedules and guidelines for sports and activities.
One of the “key considerations” included in the WIAA guidelines was an “open period” for scrimmages or workouts from Sept. 28-Nov. 30.
However, Johnson said there won’t be any scrimmages yet, despite that date included in the WIAA letter. He wouldn’t speculate when local athletes could begin workouts again.
“School athletics are totally separate,” he said. “We want to have kids in school first.”
Sequim Athletic Director Dave Ditlefsen said those workouts would involve five or fewer athletes working on fundamentals. He said they can only happen in areas where local OKs have been given by health departments.
Clallam County is not at that point yet, he said, but he is hopeful that local preps can begin competing again in late December.
“When we get the OK, then we can ease the kids into workouts,” Ditlefsen said.
Port Townsend Athletic Director Patrick Gaffney said the schools, health departments and insurance companies all have to get on the same page. The insurance companies are a big hurdle.
“Trust me, we have coaches ready to go,” Gaffney said. “The WIAA is not the biggest hurdle.”
Johnson said Port Angeles badly wants to return to sports. “The kids need it,” he said.
But, he is stressing to coaches that “small steps and patience is what we need.
“We need to take incremental steps to insure the safety and well-being of our kids,” Johnson said.
This is all based on Clallam County’s infection rate remaining below 75 per 100,000 population over a two-week period. That rate has been steadily declining and is down to 21 per 100,000, considered in the low risk category. Jefferson County, which has had some in-person school instruction for a few weeks now, is even better at 0 per 100,000 over the last two weeks.
However, Jefferson is in the same mode of no set date yet for workouts.
“It’s important to get back to sports, not just for kids’ physical health, but their mental health, too,” Gaffney said.