What will high school sports look like if and when they return?
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Professional sports are making a return this month under some incredibly strict protocols; however, it’s still unclear in most states what high school sports will look like if they return this fall.
The Colorado High School Activities Association came out with a statement on July 16, which indicated the organization is waiting on the state’s decision and guidance regarding sports and will follow whatever that entails.
“Our office supports and respects the time taken at the state level to evaluate our proposed options for resuming athletics and activities for the 2020-2021 school year,” said CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green in the announcement. “Their timeline is our timeline, and we will be ready to play, with planned modifications, once approved.”
On Monday, the Colorado Department of Education released guidance on returning to school, and the Steamboat Springs School District announced its tentative back-to-school plan earlier this month, but there has been no decisions made about sports.
In June, CHSAA put together a Resocialization Task Force comprised of pediatricians, sports medicine doctors, school administrators, coaches and CHSAA staff. The group started by ranking all 29 high school sports into three categories: lower risk, moderate risk and higher risk.
Lower risk sports can be done while social distancing and not sharing equipment. Moderate risk involves sports that have close, sustained contact with protective equipment, rare close contact or that use equipment that can’t be cleaned between participants. Higher risk involves close, sustained contact with little protective equipment, increasing the probability that respiratory particles would spread between participants.
Low risk sports: golf; sideline cheer; skiing; swimming; tennis; unified bowling
Moderate risk: baseball; cross country; field hockey; gymnastics; lacrosse; soccer; softball; track and field; volleyball
Higher risk: basketball; competitive cheer/dance; football; ice hockey; wrestling
California, a state that has the second most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. with more than 400,000, announced that fall sports will be pushed into January. The warmer weather in California allows for that shift, but in Colorado, that probably isn’t a viable option.
In Texas, another COVID-19 hot zone, high school football start dates will be delayed for the largest schools in the state.
Meanwhile, in Florida, a state experiencing a massive surge in cases, the Florida High School Athletic Association voted to keep fall sports on schedule.
What about college?
Many major college leagues, including the PAC-12, have announced the decision to play conference-only games, which will diminish travel. The PAC-12, which includes the University of Colorado, is also delaying the start of mandatory athletic activities.
Colorado State University, which plays in the Mountain West Conference, lost two games in September to PAC-12 teams, Colorado and Oregon State. The Rams are still scheduled to play the rest of the season on time and even bring in a limited number of fans.
The return of professional sports
By March 13, all major professional sports had been canceled or postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three and a half months later, some sports are starting to return but with no spectators.
The Major League Baseball season is back this week, with the Colorado Rockies taking on the Texas Rangers in the delayed season opener on Friday, July 24.
The Denver Nuggets, who are third in the Western Conference, are down in Florida in what has become known as the NBA bubble. Players and team staff are confined to a small corner of Walt Disney World, isolated from the rest of the world. The Nuggets will return to play with a game against the Miami Heat on Aug. 1.
Up in Edmonton, Alberta, the hub city for the NHL’s Western Conference, the Avalanche will start their playoff run against the St. Louis Blues on Aug. 2.
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