King County’s major high-school sports leagues have decided to push fall sports back to spring.
The KingCo Conference, Metro League and North Puget Sound League all voted this week to push the optional fall sports of cross country, tennis and golf to spring. The Wesco Conference, which has 18 of its 21 teams based in Snohomish County, released a similar decision last week.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Board released a modified sports calendar last month that pushed football, volleyball and girls soccer to March. A week later, the WIAA moved girls swimming and diving to March (called Season 3 on the new calendar), and made it possible to contest cross country, golf and tennis in either the fall or the spring.
The earliest competition would happen within these leagues would be when the traditional winter sports — boys and girls basketball, wrestling, boys swimming and diving and gymnastics — start practices Dec. 28.
These changes came as positive tests in coronavirus cases spiked across the state. Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday advised school districts in “high-risk” areas to “strongly consider distance learning with the option for limited in-person instruction.” King County is located in a high-risk area, which is reportedly defined as those with 75 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.
But school officials consider a delay better than canceling sports for the school year. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) recently conducted a study in which 3,200 athletes in 71 of the state’s 72 counties were surveyed, finding that physical-activity levels declined by 50 percent in May. SMPH also found that 66,000 high-school athletes are suffering a mental-health impact because of pandemic closures.
“We all know the data shows kids that are actively involved in athletics and activities perform better in the classroom, so we want our kids being involved,” said Rob Swaim, the NPSL president and Auburn School District athletic director. “It’s frustrating, but everyone in our league is understanding.”
There are concerns regarding multisport athletes. Instead of competing over a span of nine months, the competitive slate is reduced to six months.
The WIAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is expected to reconvene to address this issue and possibly reset the required number of practices needed before beginning a season.
Rules were previously amended to allow some coaching and light conditioning through the fall. Some school districts have yet to take advantage of that allowance, however.
“Every school district is working on plans to take care of their kids in the fall knowing that there’s not going to be any season,” said Jeff Lowell, the head of KingCo Conference and Bellevue District athletic and activities director. “This is a completely strange, completely unknown place that we’re all walking into right now.”
King and Snohomish counties need to be in Phase 3 of Washington’s “Safe Start” plan in order to hold traditional games for low-risk sports such as cross country and swimming. It needs to be in Phase 4 for medium-risk sports such as soccer and volleyball.
“There’s a level of disappointment,” said Pat McCarthy, who is the assistant director of athletics for Seattle Public Schools and head of the Metro League. “We lost (2019) spring sports and then we get into the fall and we’re pushing things back. So, there’s obviously a level of disappointment that we aren’t getting out there and letting student-athletes compete. Everyone understands why we can’t, but a lot of people feel bad for the kids.”