SPOKANE, Wash. — The WIAA announced Wednesday night that fall sports will now begin on Feb. 1 instead of winter sports like was previously scheduled.
The latest announcement certainly thrilled Gonzaga Prep football coach Dave McKenna.
"I got so excited coming into school today. The kids that were here, they were excited. They’re asking and it’s not just football. It’s the cross country kids, it’s basketball. Like, ‘When are we going to get to go?’ There’s a lot of unknowns, but at least I think there was progress made," said McKenna.
Both McKenna and Greater Spokane League/Mid-Columbia Conference Director Herb Rochtford warned that the Feb. 1 start date was unrealistic for outdoor sports in Spokane simply because of our region's weather during that time. An exact start date hasn't been set yet by the league, although that could be decided on Friday when the GSL athletic directors meet.
Beyond weather, it’s also important to keep in mind the fact that the region has to be in Governor Inslee’s phase two in order to start athletic competition.
To move to phase two, counties must have a test positivity rate less than 10%, a 10% decrease in case rates, a 10% decrease in COVID hospital admissions, and an ICU occupancy less than 90%.
There’s another requirement for the GSL and MCC superintendents as well, according to Rochtford.
"We need, first of all, to get back to in-person learning of some kind, whether it’s hybrid learning or whatever, before we are ready to implement any sports," said Rochtford.
As of right now, only the Mead School District, East Valley School District, and Gonzaga Prep are doing hybrid learning.
Another thing about Governor Inslee’s plan is that regions can roll week-by-week back-and-forth between phase one and phase two. That means that teams might play a game on Friday and then have to take the whole next week off due to COVID-19 numbers in an area.
"We tell our kids we need to adjust when we face adversity," said McKenna. "That’s a part of sports. You’re going to face adversity. At the end of the day, if we play three games versus five, we still play three and three is more than zero."
Despite all of the obstacles, Rochtford said he does have a bullish outlook that we will see high school sports at some point this school year in the Spokane region.
"We remain confident. That’s why we’re working so hard to have plans in place should we meet the criteria and should we be given the okay to implement sports," said Rochtford.
No matter what the outlook is, the impact of the past 10 months on high school sports will reverberate for some time, but it’s not all for the worst.
"It’s made me appreciate the time that I get to be out there. To really enjoy it. Not to stress out about the things I can’t control. We always tell our kids, control what you can control and let go of the rest. Well, I need to do that. I need to focus on that enjoyment with the kids, and I think this has opened my eyes to that more," said McKenna.