For the past 10 months, local high school athletic directors, coaches and administrators were bombarded with questions about when and how sports could return.
They didn’t have answers.
Decision makers higher up than them implemented new rules, restrictions and guidelines seemingly every week. A plan could be made, only to have to start anew with another announcement from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office or a new guideline from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
“People look to me for answers and I haven’t had any,” Heritage athletic director Erik Gonzalez said. “That’s been the hardest for me.”
All local leagues announced return-to-play plans late last week, signaling the end to a nearly year-long sports hiatus. It came after the WIAA issued formal guidelines about sports returning on Feb. 1. From there, local athletic directors had to devise their own plans for return. Superintendents had to OK the return; athletic directors had to figure out what schedules might look like. Local meetings were postponed as administrators awaited more guidance from the WIAA.
“In athletics, you’re used to being more in control of things,” Mountain View athletic director Adam Mathieson said. “It would be disingenuous to say it was easy. It’s been challenging.”
One thing administrators wanted to make sure happened was that all the local school districts were on board. Athletic directors pointed to the fact that district superintendents meet regularly, which made it easier for everyone to be on the same page.
Athletic directors, too, have taken positives from the months of uncertainty.
“Athletic directors have learned to pivot even faster than before,” Mathieson said.
That will come in handy this season with still so much undecided. Schedules are being finalized this week, but with Washington’s rainy February weather looming and the rest of the sports still working toward a return, flexibility will be key.
It could mean moving tennis matches at the last second to take advantage of a sunny day or getting creative with the schedule to maximize the amount of games in a shortened season.
“You have to be able to roll with it because things change daily,” Union athletic director Rory Rosenbach said. “Everyone has been really good. We meet regularly, and we can bounce things off each other to help make this happen. It’s not been an easy situation, that’s for sure.”
There are still plenty of things to figure out in the coming weeks. Schedules need to be finalized, decisions on whether league or district championships can take place need to be made and the logistics of issuing team uniforms and taking team photos are still yet to be figured out.
But for the first time in a while, athletic directors finally have answers.
“Our leadership — the superintendents, the district office, the athletic directors — have done the work to help us get to a place where we can get back to doing athletics safely,” Rosenbach said. “It’s nice to see. We’re very fortunate, because this is not the case everywhere.”