By Keith Skenandore
With the spring sports season hanging on the hinges of whether they would have a season or not due to the coronavirus, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Board of Control dashed those hopes as they voted on Tuesday, April 21, to cancel 2020 spring sports regular-season competitions and the Tournament Series.
“We want to extend our sincere empathy and regrets to all the student-athletes and coaches that have worked hard in anticipation of participating in sports this spring, particularly the seniors,” Executive Director Dave Anderson said in a press statement.
The WIAA is allowing individual, virtual spring sports coaching to continue until the final day of the 2020 season, which is the final day of the State Tournament for the respective sports.
Anderson said, “The Board of Control and Executive Staff have been resolute in their hopes to preserve some chance to play one more time, and it is our hope that by providing the extended unrestricted days, we can provide some opportunities and closure for spring sport student-athletes.”
Karri Vandenlangenberg, Seymour Thunder girls’ softball head coach said she the decision made by the WIAA is a tough one, especially with her squad unable to defend their WIAA Divison 2 state championship after winning the title last year.
“I feel for our seniors as well as our underclassmen,” Vandenlangenberg said. “They are also missing out on the chance to learn from the leadership of the senior class.”
The cancellation of spring competitions and State Tournaments is in support of Gov. Tony Evers’ ongoing efforts to prevent, suppress and control the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
Vandenlangenberg understand the decision that was made.
“The health of our community and families are what is most important,” she said.
On April 16, the state’s Safer-at-Home order was extended until May 26 with all public and private K-12 schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year (June 30), which also prohibits all school extracurricular and athletic activities.
“We thank Gov. Evers and all the leading health officials and health care workers for their leadership and guidance during this unprecedented period in our history,” said Anderson. “We share in the responsibility to assist in the efforts to control the spread of this virus. When the time is right, we will play again.”
In conjunction with the decision, the Board voted to extend the unrestricted summertime coaching contact opportunities for spring sports only. This action will permit school teams that include the current year’s seniors to assemble and conduct practices and competitions for up to 30 days, provided restrictions on assembling in groups are removed, until the start of a student-athlete’s fall sport season.
Vandenlangenberg said she will be meeting with Activities Director Ryan Spaulding to figure out a plan for their unrestricted summertime coaching contact opportunities.
All sports’ acclimatization regulations remain unchanged prior to the first competition. In addition, a day of rest after six consecutive contact days remains unchanged. Furthermore, if schools engage in competitions, the required number of WIAA licensed officials also remains unchanged.
All spring sports competitions scheduled during the expansion of unrestricted summertime provisions will require approval from district administrators of all competing schools. In addition, spring sports teams assembling without the current year’s seniors participating shall be limited to five days of unrestricted summertime contact, which is the same as fall and winter sports.
The cancellation of all extracurricular activities prohibits all school or coach involvement with training, practices, scrimmages and contests until, at the earliest July 1, unless restrictions are removed prior to that time. Therefore, coaches may not bring students together or encourage students to assemble for extracurricular purposes, which includes competitions, practices and all instructional and training until the restrictions on assembling in groups are removed.
All coaches are encouraged to continue to connect with their student-athletes with virtual organizational team meetings and team building exercises by video or messaging as approved by school administration to provide support for athletes. Coaches can provide general information to their athletes virtually, who may voluntarily review the suggestions. However, coaches are prohibited from mandating or instructing athletes out of season during this period.
Spring sports coaches may continue to provide individual virtual instruction for student-athletes with training, conditioning and skill development until the end of the respective spring sports season, which is the final day of the scheduled 2020 State Tournament for the respective sport.
Fall and winter sports coaches’ contact may begin July 1 provided restrictions on assembling in groups are removed and will follow the existing prescribed summertime dates and unrestricted contact regulations with a maximum of five days of contact.