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Fate of Spring Sports in the Balance
Coaches and athletes across the state react to the temporary cancellation of spring sports
Published: 3/30/2020 6:50:47 PM

Fourteen days ago, the Idaho High School Activities Association temporarily shutdown springs sports across the state in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Tomorrow, spring athletics in Idaho will face its toughest challenge since that decision two weeks ago, when the board meets to determine the future of Idaho high school athletics in 2020. 

Back on March 16, the IHSAA announced it would suspend all athletics and activities until April 5, replicating the actions of other state high school activity associations around the country. Since the decision, Idaho has seen reported cases of COVID-19 skyrocket, as the State Board of Education shut down all schools until April 20. But that decision by the SBOE did not directly impact high school athletics. 

According to Mike Federico, assistant IHSAA director, Tuesday’s meeting will serve as a “working meeting,” where the board will reassess the April 5 deadline to active spring sports once again. 

For many steeped in spring athletics, tomorrow’s meeting will carry immense weight. Sam Christensen, Mountain View head softball coach, said the initial news that he and his athletes wouldn’t see the field for another two weeks hit hard. 

“This is such a special group to me and I’m sadder that I am losing out on time with them. I know how fast it goes and how special little moments are,” he said. “Our youth is special and I’m very fortunate and honored to be in the position I am.”

And for Christensen’s senior athletes, the possibility of having their senior season end before it began triggered an outpouring of support among the team. 

“Our senior year is our year of lasts,” said Mountain View softball player Oakleigh Kearby. “Lasts that are potentially going to be stripped away without us even knowing. The bond, the memories that have been created and shared between so many girls within the Valley will be the hardest ones to leave behind.”

Not just Treasure Valley athletes and coaches made the case for a return of spring sports during the temporary shutdown. Highland baseball coach Christian Colonel said he hopes the IHSAA would at least salvage postseason play in lieu of a complete shutdown.

“I don’t envy the position of the IHSAA right now, I wouldn’t want to do that job,” Colonel said. “If the magic number is 6 feet, we could accomplish this in baseball, especially with masks. I don’t care how stupid we would look, the kids would be safe and playing ball.”

Colonel said he sees a decision on spring athletics ending in three different outcomes, barring a cancellation. 

First, spring sports could return for schools planning on reopening April 20. Second, Colonel said if the regular season was beyond saving, the IHSAA should at least consider a return for district and state championships. And if nothing else, 2020’s spring season could be extended beyond the end of the academic school year, Colonel said. 

Ryan Hasselstrom, head Prairie track coach, agreed, but had a grimmer outlook on a return sooner than April 20. 

"I would love for spring sports to return," Hasselstrom said. "Reality tells me though that with schools not in session through April 20, it is probably highly unlikely it will happen. If we could somehow salvage the last few weeks of the season though, it would be great."

Colonel, as well as others across the state, took to social media to push for a return of spring sports, highlighted by a petition with nearly 8,400 signatures as of Monday afternoon. 

“Many athletes have scholarships on the line and can not afford to lose the opportunities this season could provide,” wrote Patrick Moes, founder of the petition. “For seniors, this is their last chance to compete for their high school, with their teammates, in front of their community. Please give them, and other student-athletes the opportunity to do what they love.”

While many in the athletic community voiced their support for the IHSAA to reinstate athletics, many also urged caution and reason. Coeur d’Alene head track coach Justin Aguilar said safety, above all else, was his first priority. 

“I want my seniors to have a chance to go out the way I didn't — on top with a state title,” Aguilar said. “At the end of the day though, it comes down to the safety and health of the kids and coaches. I'd hate to lose a kid or coach to this virus. I want to get back out with my team and help these kids write their names in history.”


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