Winter preps sports pushed back a month
And that moves spring sports into real spring
Season B — basketball, wrestling, hockey and skiing — is on hold for a month due to the coronavirus, according to the Colorado High School Activities Association.
The governing association of high school sports announced this week that the schedules for those seasons have been pushed back from Jan. 4, 2021 to Feb. 1, 2021.
As a result, Season C — boys soccer, girls volleyball and football for schools who have elected spring — now starts March 22, as opposed to March 4. And, yes, Season D is reset for May 10 with the championships for baseball, lacrosse, track and field, girls golf, boys volleyball (its first sanctioned season) and girls soccer ending by June 26.
While it seems like a short summer vacation for all involved, the biggest concern is the viability of Season B as COVID-19 cases soar across the state and the country.
“It’s very 2020,” Vail Christian boys basketball coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “It is what it is. The reality is a lot of counties around the state are going red. We’re not far from red. When it’s red, you can’t have indoor sports. It’s frustrating, but I’m fairly confident that this will not be the last word.”
As Kuhns said, this wan’t a surprising decision the way the news is going. And, having watched Season A — softball, cross-country and the on-and-off nature of football — Kuhns and his fellow Season B coaches expect a lot more starts and stops.
Eagle Valley wrestling started conditioning on Monday when CHSAA issued the postponement.
“We’re excited about having a season,” Eagle Valley wrestling coach Melvin Valdez said. “We’re going to have seven weeks of competition. As long as we have season for our seniors — and we have a big group of seniors — we’ll do what we have to do.”
The biggest issues ahead for Season B include factors which local high schools can’t control — the virus itself and state variances allowing gatherings indoors.
For basketball, wrestling and hockey, by and large contested indoors, the first major challenge is obviously the state lowering COVID-19 numbers as the vaccine is not expected to be available widely until the middle of 2021.
While everyone has their fingers crossed regarding that, the next issue is variances. Currently, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, which obviously causes problems. Basketball has 10 players on a court at one time, not to mention, officials, coaches and the rest of the teams. Hockey has 12 players on the ice usually and 40 players in total for a game. Wrestling teams have to fill 14 weight classes.
Basketball teams that are working out informally can’t run a standard 5-on-5 full-court-drill because the coach’s/coaches’ presence puts a session at more than 10.
This does not include fans, whose presence is Season B is quite questionable.
Assuming that variances are lifted — and that’s a major assumption — to allow the players and coaches into the building, how do they play?
If a basketball game is played correctly, it has ebb and flow, few stoppages and a lot of players touching the ball. Is a game stopped every two minutes to switch out the ball for a clean orb?
Wrestling seems to be a difficult sport in COVID-19 days. Any regular-season meet run in “normal” times, would turn into a super-spreader event. Just using the Eagle Valley Invite, which is usually the first of second weekend of January, one can see how COVID-19 would rip through a gathering of 15-20 teams from different parts of the state, six mats, referess and nearly 1,000 spectators split between two gyms during the course of a minimum 8-hour day. (For those of us who have covered the Invite before, we’d be lucky to get out of there in 8 hours.)
There is no Eagle Valley Invite this year and all meets will be revamped this winter, Valdez said. Instead of brackets at each weight class that would mix athletes from different schools, meets will be more dual-oriented, as Eagle Valley or Battle Mountain will wrestle fewer schools to limit exposure to COVID-19.
Valdez said he was encouraged by watching his daughter Lexi wrestle for Colorado Mesa University this fall. She would wrestle and then immediately head to a shower to clean before accepting congratulations from her parents in the stands.
Valdez is considering the feasibility of such a set-up for Eagle Valley this season. He is also looking into wrestling foam. These products are advertised and used to protect wrestlers from infections from the mats, locker rooms and opponents. Do they work for COVID-19? That would be worth exploring.
As for hockey, it seems the biggest issues are transportation, the bench and and the locker room. Dobson Ice Arena and the Eagle County Pool & Ice Rink are perfectly wonderful facilities for normal days, but not for pandemics.
The benches and locker rooms aren’t big enough for social distancing. Perhaps changing into uniforms away from the arena for home games and expanding the benches to the stands, if that works with line changes?
Battle Mountain hockey also needs to figure out travel. With most nonconference games down in Denver or Colorado Springs, do the Huskies stay overnight in a hotel and play back-to-back games?
Skiing gets the benefit of being outside. Like hockey, the issues are transportation and avoiding gatherings. (the start and finish lines.) Speaking of gatherings, the state meet is at Beaver Creek … now in March.
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