WIAA pushes back sports start date to Feb., shortens seasons

Taylor Newquist
Sports Editor, Statesman Examiner

At the same time COVID-19 cases rose to new highs in many places across the country, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association pushed back the start of its high school sports seasons again last week, this time to Feb. 1.

The decision came last Wednesday, not long after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced another four-week increase in COVID restrictions that made the WIAA halt all indoor extracurricular activities.

Pushing back the start of sports wasn’t a decision the association wanted to make, as Executive Director Mick Hoffman published a strongly-worded letter to the WIAA website called ‘School Sports and Activities Needed Now More than Ever’ the following day.

“Parents can see the out-sized toll this sudden change in life has taken on our kids,” Hoffman wrote. “It has diminished our sense of joy, created anxiety over our safety and wellbeing, and stolen what will soon be a full year of our lives.

“While there is conclusive evidence about the physical dangers of this virus among certain age groups and demographics, the Governor’s Office and Department of Health must factor in the impact restrictions have on our students’ mental and emotional health.”

Hoffman went on to cite examples of why he believes school sports should return with a University of Wisconsin study that showed a 31% increase of self-reported anxiety and depression in students surveyed. He also referred to several studies that showed the vast majority of those currently playing sports across the country aren’t contracting the virus at competitions.

“The University of Wisconsin found that in a sample of 30,000 high school athletes, only 271 COVID-19 cases were reported, with 0.5% of those cases traced back to sports contact,” he said.

Leading up to last week’s newest set of COVID restrictions, schools across the state had been conducting sports practices under their county’s and department of health’s guidelines.

Those practices were leading up to the previously anticipated start date of traditional winter sports in December, though that grew less likely by the day, with case counts far off from the standards set by the Governor’s Office and DOH for high-risk winter sports like basketball and wrestling.

Read the full story in the Nov. 25 edition of the Deer Park Tribune.