School athletic directors hoping for fall sports SanTan Sun News

School athletic directors hoping for fall sports

School athletic directors hoping for fall sports
Sports and Recreation
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By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

East Valley high school athletic directors continue to do their part to navigate sport programs through a tenuous summer filled with uncertainty surrounding a fall sports season.

After Gov. Doug Ducey delayed in-classroom to Aug. 17, the Arizona Interscholastic Association pushed back the start date of official practices to the same day, led to several schools shutting down athletic summer training sessions on campus. Some schools hoped to resume conditioning workouts last week, including Chandler Unified.

Chandler’s return-to-play plan called for four nine-day phases that would eventually allow teams to practice without limitations.

Chandler teams should currently be entering the fourth and final phase, which involved playing other teams in traditional 7-on-7 tournaments.

But schools never made it out of the first phase. The morning of its scheduled transition to the second phase, teams were told to essentially press pause on any advancements.

“It was a combination of guidance from the district and our own decision,” Hamilton Athletic Director Brett Palmer said in regard to not moving into the second phase. “We want to do what is best for our athletes.”

Palmer said the Chandler district had hoped to allow teams to begin practices again on Monday, July 13. But that was since changed and teams now aim to again begin camps on July 20.

Football, volleyball, boys and girls basketball and cheer all began workouts at Hamilton this summer. Though most have already decided not to return when given the green light by district and school officials.

Palmer reflected on the possibility of sports not taking place in the fall, explaining his desire to allow athletes to play if it is deemed safe to do so.

“Personally, I hope we can get something going knowing it is going to be super different than in year’s past,” Palmer said. “I think me, and the coaches are hopeful to allow kids to compete in sports. They are going stir crazy. They all want to compete, but we have to do it in a safe manner.”

Schools advanced to the second phase before camps were shut down. Athletic directors from all schools have met weekly to discuss the resuming workouts.

Several school districts have already explored ways to give students an option to resume school in the fall completely online, fully in person or a combination of the two.

The AIA allows students to complete online schoolwork as long as it is registered through a district and one of its respective schools and compete on an athletic team. Executive Director David Hines said that will remain the case this year if students choose to only conduct online coursework.

“Kids taking virtual classes through a third-person, Primavera type are not eligible,” Hines said. “If the governor says we can go back to in-person school, regardless if a kid decides to stay online, go in-person or do a combination of the two, they are eligible at that school.

“For example, if a kid takes online classes through the Mesa district and some are through Mountain View, they are eligible to compete for Mountain View.”

Arizona isn’t alone when it comes to uncertainty surrounding the fall sports season or in-person learning.

Michael Hinojosa, the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District in Texas, told multiple news outlets last week that he has doubts football can be played. Other states such as New Mexico have already moved football and soccer to the spring.

Doing the same in Arizona is unlikely. However, Hines said the association is weighing a number of different options, including delaying and shortening the fall sports season.

As it stands, the AIA said if kids are allowed back into schools by Aug. 17, golf is likely to begin Aug. 24, badminton Aug. 31 and all other sports, including football and volleyball, will begin the week of Sept. 7.

Even if school is delayed further, however, Hines said the association has discussed several backup plans. As it stands, if kids are allowed back in schools sports will be played.

“Plan ‘A’ went out the window, but we have a plan ‘B,’ ‘C,’ ‘D,’ and so on,” Hines said. “We have the ability to do a number of different things in order to not lose out on another season.”

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