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Idaho moves forward with fall prep sports; coaches plan for pandemic guidelines

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 6, 2020

There are no easy answers when it comes to dealing with the complications of the pandemic that is rocking the nation. Nowhere is that sentiment more true than whether to send kids back to school and extracurricular activities.

Some states, including Washington, Oregon and California, have delayed or pushed back traditional fall sports until the spring.

Idaho is starting on time.

The Idaho High School Activities Association Board of Directors met on Wednesday and decided to move forward with its Monday start date for practices for the fall sports season.

Boys and girls soccer games can commence Aug. 21; volleyball, swimming and cross country Aug. 26 and football Aug. 28.

During the board meeting, no member made a motion to vote on whether to move forward or make a change, so the Monday date stands.

Local leagues, as well as individual school districts, can still decide to delay the start of fall sports at their own discretion.

There was plenty of discussion during the virtual meeting, much of which was about parents’ concerns to keep their kids healthy with positive tests of COVID-19 surging across the state.

The IHSAA published guidelines for reopening high school athletics and activities in June, with a list of four requirements – in conjunction with the state’s four-stage plan for reopening – for schools to satisfy before resuming athletic competition.

Each sport has specific instructions depending on level of contact and interaction between athletes.

On Wednesday, Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he wants schools to reopen for in-person learning this fall, even as he announced that Idaho will again be held in Stage 4 of the coronavirus plan.

Some school districts across the state have announced that they will be conducting online learning to start the year, while others will open classrooms again.

In Coeur d’Alene, volleyball coach Carly Curtis has been able to conduct summer practices with some of her athletes, and she’s looking forward to tryouts on Monday and Tuesday and preparing for the upcoming season.

“I’m feeling good, actually,” she said. “We’ve been kind of preparing all summer as to how we’re conducting practices and preparing for the guidelines that will be in place for the season, so they won’t be a huge shock for the girls.”

Curtis mentioned that there will be a lot of smaller group drills, rotating stations and plenty of distancing and disinfecting during breaks.

“As things get into more specifics, hopefully we can transition easily into them.”

As if it’s not hard enough to conduct practices and tryouts and try to prepare for an upcoming season, coaches also have to take on the role of public health official.

“Between Panhandle Health changing day-to-day, week-to-week what their expectations are, and then us trying to, you know, read between the lines of what that means, and to be honest, no one wanting to make a clear-cut call, that’s been tough for our district and our administrators and our coaches,” Curtis said.

“It’s been a tough process and we’re all just trying to do the best we can and try to keep everybody safe.”

Curtis said she hasn’t had an athlete opt-out yet out of precaution, but “Monday will tell us,” when tryouts start.

Curtis added that she hasn’t had an out-of-state athlete specifically reach out to her program to transfer to play in the fall, but she has heard of other programs in the district and in town take in outside players.

“We had one (out-of-state) parent kind of shopping around the whole state of Idaho,” she said.

During its virtual meeting, the IHSAA said rules and procedures for accepting transfers from states without fall sports would be forthcoming. Board members stressed they didn’t want Idaho accepting these types of transfers without justification.

Curtis’ biggest concern going forward is being able to complete the season if they’re able to get it started.

“I don’t know if we have any fears, but we’re going to have to be ready day-to-day, week-to-week on changes,” she said. “I think my biggest fear is not being able to have a season at all. We have a fantastic senior group and varsity team lined up for this year, and for them to not have a season would be pretty heartbreaking.”

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