This year, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a global healthcare, economic, and social crisis. As the chaos ensues, school has become exclusively online in Olympia, and many are curious about the plan for local school sports. While the COVID-19 situation is constantly changing, athletes, coaches, and administrators are hopeful for sports in some form this school year.
Typically in November, Capital High School holds fall state championship send-offs with the fight song blaring from the pep band and students cheering for our devoted student-athletes as they head out to seek success. It’s obvious that this year is different, and it is having an impact on athletes and their fans.
When Governor Jay Inslee mandated all Washington schools to close on March 17, 2020, school sports shut down as well. Capital athletes, along with their peers throughout the state, lost their 2020 Spring sports season. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) is the governing board for high school sports and activities in the state. The WIAA website has a modified sports season calendar for the 2020-2021 school year which outlines a schedule for all sports to play shortened seasons from February through June. While having a plan for a return to sports is encouraging for student athletes who are anxiously waiting for a return to their beloved activities, the schedule contains the words “ALL DATES ARE TENTATIVE” in bold, red letters which causes much skepticism about a return to sports.
While many athletes are just hoping for any season, some of the most dedicated athletes at our school are looking forward to championships at the end of the sports seasons.
When asked about the likelihood of competitive sports seasons and playoff championships this school year, Steven Taylor, Athletic Director of Capital High School, said “As of today there will not be traditional State Championships, the culminating events will result in Regional Champions.” He added, “Keep in mind that all of this remains fluid. It can change at any time.”
This causes frustration for many upperclassmen that hope to showcase their talents for potential college scholarships.
Adam Petersen, team captain and state-athlete in Cross Country, said that he hopes that the decision-makers understand the stakes for upperclassmen athletes that wish “to prove themselves to college recruiters.” In addition, he stated that he hopes “there will be a state championship, even if it is modified for safety.”
Another major question on the minds of those in the community is the policy on some sports returning while others not.
“There are different risk categories: Low, Moderate, and High. Each sport falls into one of those categories and those are defined by positive cases of COVID per 100k in our county,” says Taylor. “There is the possibility some sports will be played and some not.” Based on the standards set by the WIAA, the current number of cases in Thurston County falls under the “High” category which would not allow for competition for any team sports. Only individual sports such as cross country, tennis, swimming, golf, and track would be permitted to compete. “What we really need is for everyone to do their best to reduce the number of COVID cases so we can open up competitions,” Taylor says.
Despite all of the uncertainty on sports seasons so far, it is clear that many Cougars are still eager to participate in sports this year.
“We have seen an amazing number of participants in most sports this Fall. We have over 500 athletes that have been cleared,” said Steve Taylor about the current number of participants in the pre-season training, “I think this shows how much our students are craving the interaction with coaches and teammates.”
It is clear that if people want to return to school sports, everyone needs to do their part in lowering the effects of COVID, by washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing.