They may be rivals, but the coronavirus pandemic has put Clark County high school coaches and athletes on the same team.
It’s a team that just wants to play — anytime, anywhere.
That’s why coaches of football, volleyball and girls soccer are happy with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s plan to move those traditionally fall sports to the spring of 2021.
Tuesday, the WIAA announced radical changes to its 2020-21 sports calendar due to COVID-19.
Some low-risk sports such as cross country, tennis and golf will tentatively take place as scheduled in the fall, with the first practices beginning Sept 7.
But football and other higher-risk sports will occur later in a new four-season calendar unveiled by the WIAA on Tuesday.
Football, volleyball and girls soccer are now part of the WIAA’s Season 3, with competition running from March 8 through May 1.
Though the WIAA made clear that the situation remains fluid, Tuesday’s announcement injected a welcome dose of hope into a climate of uncertainty.
“To me they’ve hit the nail on the head,” Mountain View football coach and athletic director Adam Mathieson said Wednesday. “There’s two things you look at. The first is safety. The second is providing kids the opportunity to compete. Some sports are safe to start, and they’re doing that. But every sport at least gets a chance to play.”
Columbia River soccer coach Filly Afenegus saw his boys team’s spring 2020 season cancelled when COVID-19 caused Gov. Jay Inslee to issue a stay-at-home order. The memories of that disappointment are still fresh, he said.
With coronavirus cases still rising statewide, playing soccer in the fall would have been a gamble, perhaps even a long-shot. That’s why Afenegus is happy his girls team’s season was moved to spring, when the prospects of playing are better.
Plus, he anticipates many players in his soccer program will boost their fitness by running cross country in the fall.
“Soccer is an endurance sport, so in the absence of soccer it makes sense to do cross country,” Afenegus said. “Some players who love cross country haven’t been able to do it. This opens that up.”
Prairie volleyball coach Jen Palmer describes herself as a planner. In previous years, she has relished the meticulous process of organizing practice schedules and trips to out-of-town tournaments.
This year has been different.
“I kind of got my schedules then threw my hands in the air,” Palmer said.
It’s possible, even likely, that Prairie’s volleyball season will take place entirely in Southwest Washington. But now having a season on the calendar, even several months away, has given her players a boost.
Palmer saw that in her players’ comments on social media after Tuesday’s announcement.
“I think it gave hope to a lot of our athletes,” Palmer said. “It gives them something to work toward. One senior returner commented that at least we have a season to look forward to. I thought that was really cool to have that outlook, from a leadership perspective.”
Mathieson’s Mountain View football players have been doing offseason workouts in groups no larger than five people. He said they took Tuesday’s news well.
“Some of the kids were like ‘wow, this is almost like a redshirt year,’ Mathieson said. “One kid said ‘I’m a sophomore now but by the spring I’ll almost be a junior.’ They will have time to get bigger, stronger and faster. They’re just eager to play.”
Mathieson said he hopes football, volleyball and soccer players take the opportunity to try new sports. He said any football players who want a career in business should go out for golf this fall.
“We’ll still be able to honor the two-, three- and even four-sport athletes,” Mathieson said. “I think the reason many of us work in education is to offer the comprehensive high school experience, which includes athletics and activities. This gives kids a chance to compete and some chance at normalcy.”