High school winter sports reinstated


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Marcos de Niza and Seton Catholic are among Arizona schools that will have a soccer season, after all. The AIA Executive Board voted Tuesday to reverse last week’s decision to cancel winter sports due to COVID-19. –Wrangler News file photo

Follow the bouncing ball of winter-season high school sports, if you can.

After yet another vote Tuesday by the Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board, there will, once again, be bouncing balls this season on soccer fields and in gyms at Corona del Sol, Marcos de Niza, Seton Catholic and Valley Christian.

High school winter sports were reinstated across Arizona by the Executive Board less than a week after the board voted to cancel them due to heightened COVID-19 cases. The vote to cancel triggered widespread public outcry.

The 5-4 vote to reinstate boys and girls basketball, soccer and wrestling came four days after the board had voted 5-4 to cancel those winter sports this season. That came after the start of winter sports had been moved back to Jan. 18 due to increased COVID-19 cases across the state. And that came after the start date had been set back to Jan. 4 from the traditional late-November start dates.

With Tuesday’s vote to reinstate, winter sports remain scheduled to begin Jan. 18.

David Hines

“This has been a very difficult decision for the Executive Board,” said David Hines, executive director of the AIA, the governing body of high school sports in Arizona. “They have been weighing the concerns of the medical community, including the AIA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, and the requests by our member schools. We all want winter sports to happen, but it must be done safely.”

Online petitions last week requesting reinstatement of winter sports quickly gained mass approval. Student-athletes, parents and other interested parties demonstrated outside the AIA’s Phoenix office. Member schools across the state also asked the board for a reconsideration.

Their pleas were heard.

“This has been a very challenging situation,” the AIA Executive Board said in a prepared statement. “While we all desire to have our high school students in school and participate in interscholastic sports and activities, we feel it is imperative to consider the recommendations of medical professionals based on their expertise. Reinstating the winter season poses a risk to the health-care system, which could impact students who may be injured. We believe that these additional modifications will serve to mitigate this risk as much as possible. Our member schools and families must understand how critical it is to adhere completely to all modifications.”

The Executive Board pointed out that Arizona for the past two weeks has had the nation’s highest rate of coronavirus hospitalizations.

In reversing the fate of winter sports, the AIA imposed additional mandates:

  • All students, coaches and officials are required to wear a cloth mask or gaiter for the entirety of a game/contest.
  • Each school must complete the AIA COVID-19 Athlete/Coach Monitoring Form the day of all games/contests and provide a copy to the opposing school prior to the contest.
  • No more than two parents or legal guardians may attend their student-athlete’s home games as allowed by school and county guidelines.
  • Any school that violates any of the mandatory modifications, including the COVID-19 Return to Play Form, will lose access to AIA officiating.

These mandates are in addition to guidelines set by the AIA for return to sports on Nov. 30.

The AIA said that the situation will be monitored closely and re-evaluated in the upcoming days and weeks. When hospitalizations decrease, the Executive Board may also reconsider additional sport-specific modifications and the allowance of fans, it said.



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