The spring high school sports season has been pushed back even more, and there is plenty of reason to doubt it will happen at all.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Colorado High School Activities Association announced Tuesday the current suspension of all spring activities would be extended until at least April 18. On top of this, all CHSAA music events have been canceled, as well as the CHSAA Hall of Fame event scheduled for April 14.
“It’s not the one you want to hear, but rarely are those smart decisions the ones you really want to hear,” Basalt High School athletic director Jason Santo said. “While it hurts for me as an athletic director not to have my kids out on the field or in a competition, I also know we are keeping our kids safe. That, I can realize, is the smart decision.”
CHSAA originally announced Thursday that all spring sports and activities were to be suspended until April 6. Later that same evening, the organization canceled the remainder of the state basketball tournaments, which had been slated to conclude over the weekend.
Citing updated safety recommendations made by state and federal health officials, including the closing of large gathering places and limiting large crowds, CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green made the decision to further delay the spring prep season. The CHSAA office has even closed with employees working remotely until at least March 30.
“Better than them just pulling the plug. At least it’s still showing that we are going to give it a chance,” Aspen High School athletic director Martha Richards said. “She’s going to try to do everything she can to make sure these kids get to play in some way, shape or form. That’s something everyone should be really appreciative of. It may ultimately end up being out of her hands.”
Spring sports practices got underway March 2, with most sports having the option to start playing games March 12. Between Aspen and Basalt, the only team to have competed before the suspension was AHS girls golf at a tournament last week in Grand Junction. Both schools had numerous teams slated to get underway this past weekend before the moratorium hit.
“Just to delay it a little bit longer is the smart thing to do,” Santo said. “With everything that is going on right now, Rhonda really had no option; CHSAA had no option. The decision had to be made in the best interest of all the student-athletes to postpone until we know more information.”
With no better than an April 18 start date, many questions remain regarding the season happening at all. Taking into account spring break, which had been scheduled for the week of March 23, neither AHS nor BHS had much on the athletic calendar until the first week of April. From there the schedules were packed with contests until the conclusion of the regular season in the second or third week of May, depending on the sport.
Assuming an April 18 return, neither athletic director had many answers on the logistics of how the schedule would be played out. Some sports, like golf and tennis, can technically go straight to regionals and state without needing a regular season. Others, like soccer, lacrosse and baseball, typically need some sort of regular season to determine postseason seeding.
“It’s still doable at this time in some fashion, I think. We just have to stick with that and control the things we can control and obviously let go of the other ones,” said Richards, who also coaches the AHS girls golf team. “I feel like the Legislative Council and our commissioner and all the assistant commissioners, they are truly trying to do everything they can to save the season. I think they will exhaust every option and idea to at least give these kids a chance to play some games. I have no idea what that would look like, but I know they will do their best.”
The current suspension includes all practices. And with school itself being closed through at least spring break due to the coronavirus threat, even accessing the playing fields for impromptu practices isn’t allowed. Some coaches, however, have been posting optional workouts for athletes to do from home in the interim.
There isn’t much coaches or players can do otherwise.
“The message I’ve sent when I’ve talked to the coaches is the season isn’t canceled yet,” Richards said. “Not knowing is the hardest for them. We are just trying to keep everyone’s spirits up and let them know CHSAA, all the ADs, we are all fighting for, how do we make sure some sort of season happens?”
Whether the season happens or not, Santo believes CHSAA’s ultimate decision should be on the same page with the rest of the country.
“I don’t think one state can be a lone wolf on this type of decision. I think every state has to fall in line with how they handle high school athletics, similar to the way colleges did,” Santo said. “There has to be a sweeping determination through all states. It’s a difficult thing to do.”