Another new schedule for high school sports
Once again, high school athletic competition in Washington has a new schedule based on Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Healthy Washington-Roadmap to Recovery” plan announced last week.
For Liberty Bell High School, that means jamming all of its sports programs into a few months of practice and competitive seasons that nearly overlap with each other.
The governor’s plan divides the state into seven regions including the North Central region, made up of Okanogan, Douglas, Chelan and Grant counties. And while schools in that region are adapting to a proposed three-season schedule for prep sports, the ability to compete will depend on whether a region has advanced from the state’s Phase 1 to Phase 2 in the recovery plan, based on COVID response metrics. All districts are currently in Phase 1.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) will notify local health jurisdictions within a region when they have met the criteria to move into Phase 2. Each Friday, DOH will update the recovery plan “dashboard” for the regions — which would affect whether competition will be allowed, and how practices may proceed.
The North Central Region High Schools of Washington — which includes seven athletic leagues and 28 schools ranging from 1B to 4A — said last week that the region’s athletic directors have “come to a tentative agreement to work towards a common goal of maximizing opportunities for our student-athletes.” Liberty Bell is a 2B school, but has typically also played regional teams in the 1B and 1A classifications.
For the most part, competition would not be possible until a region moves into Phase 2, under which competition would be allowed for “low- and moderate-risk” indoor sports (but with no spectators). Low-, moderate- and high-risk outdoor sports competitions would be allowed with up to 200 spectators. Under Phase 1, practices with controlled conditions are allowed for low-risk indoor sports, and for low- and moderate-risk outdoor sports.
The proposed seasons as they would affect Liberty Bell:
• Fall sports — including cross country, football, girls’ soccer and volleyball — would start formal practices on Feb. 22 (Feb. 16 for football), would start competition on Feb. 27 (March 4 for football), and end their seasons on April 3.
• Spring sports — including baseball, boys’ soccer, softball, golf, tennis and track — would start practices on April 5, with competition beginning April 10 and seasons ending May 15.
• Winter sports — basketball and wrestling — would have their first practices on May 17, begin competition on May 22 and conclude their seasons on June 19.
Football and girls’ soccer would still be challenges for Liberty Bell, as the Mountain Lion Stadium’s field will likely still be under snow in February and would need to be plowed clear for practices and games. Last fall, the stadium track was cleared for cross country team practices and time trials.
“There’s not a lot of stability to this plan,” Liberty Bell Athletic Director Michael Wilbur said in an interview last week. “It’s all very contingent at this point.”
Wilbur said Liberty Bell will do everything possible, within the state guidelines for practices and competition, to see that Mountain Lions athletes have a chance to compete in what remains of the school year.
Wilbur said that, based on tentative groupings by the North Central Regional athletic directors, Liberty Bell would be competing against familiar opponents as opposed to much larger schools like Moses Lake or Wenatchee.
As to fans, Wilbur said that “we hope to allow a limited number of spectators … we’ll look at the [state] guidelines and adjust as necessary.” He said it’s possible a live video feed could be available for indoor sports like basketball and volleyball. “We can broadcast for folks who can’t or shouldn’t be there,” he said.
Wilbur said some limited practice sessions for low- and moderate-risk sports are allowed before Feb. 22. “We’ll be offering workout opportunities [including in the Lions’ Den workout room],” he said. Guidelines for practices must still be followed, such as maintaining a one-coach-to-six-athletes ratio and limiting participant “pods” to two in any gym.
Wilbur said it will be valuable for the athletes to again be working together with their coaches and peers.
“We hope it is leading to competition,” he said.