AIA reinstates winter high school sports following feedback from coaches, public
After much backlash from the public and feedback from schools, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) reversed its decision to cancel winter high school sports. The season has been reinstated with modifications.
Four days after the AIA Executive Board voted 5-4 to cancel the season because of hospital capacity and alarming rates of coronavirus cases, the board held a revote with board member Jim Love changing his vote to reverse the decision.
However, the Executive Board members have determined additional modifications are necessary:
All students, coaches and officials will be required to wear a cloth mask or gaiter for the entirety of a game/contest.
Each school will complete the AIA COVID-19 Athlete/Coach Monitoring Form the day of all games/contests and provide a copy to the opposing school prior to the contest.
Up to two parents or legal guardians may attend their student-athlete's home games as allowed by the school and county guidelines.
Any school that violates any of the mandatory modifications, including the COVID-19 Return to Play Form, will lose access to AIA officiating.
During the Zoom meeting, the board relayed how some board members received harassing and threatening messages after the initial decision.
“This has been a very challenging situation. While we all desire to have our high school students in school and participate in interscholastic sports and activities, we feel it is imperative to consider the recommendations of medical professionals based on their expertise,” the Executive Board said. “Reinstating the winter season poses a risk to the healthcare system, which could impact students who may be injured. We believe that these additional modifications will serve to mitigate this risk as much as possible. Our member schools and families must understand how critical it is to adhere completely to all modifications.”
Many coaches and players have expressed concerns about the new requirement to wear masks while playing.
The AIA said the situation will be closely monitored and re-evaluated in the upcoming days and weeks. Once hospitalizations decrease to more acceptable levels, the Executive Board may also reconsider additional sport-specific modifications and the allowance of fans.
“This has been a very difficult decision for the Executive Board. They have been weighing the concerns of the medical community, including the AIA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, and the requests by our member schools. We all want winter sports to happen, but it must be done safely,” said Executive Director David Hines.