AIA delays winter sports season until January

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In Arizona, the winter season of the high school sports year typically start the first of December, even earlier if Thanksgiving weekend tournaments are included. That is all being pushed back a month, thanks to COVID-19.

Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Executive Board voted in special session today to delay the start of season until Jan. 5. For AIA-member schools in Maricopa, that affects basketball, soccer and wrestling.

“We will continue to monitor metrics and adjust as needed for all our student athletes to compete and have a safe return to play,” Sequoia Pathway athletic director Glen Hale said. “In the meantime, we will hold group/individual sessions with our athletes with the protocols that our administrators have set in place.”

Schools must have the winter season completed by Feb. 19.

“We feel that the students are safer within the school environment than not to be in school at all,” said AIA Executive Director David Hines in a news release. “Delaying the start of the season will give our coaches and administrators time to implement safety protocols and put sports modifications in place. Just like getting fall sports off the ground, doing things the right way will allow for our sports to continue.”

The delay causes the winter season to nose in on the traditional start of spring sports. As a result, the earliest allowable first date of practice for baseball, softball and track has been pushed to Feb. 15.

“Maricopa High School will continue to follow the winter sport modifications set by the AIA, as well as adhere to any other stipulations that may arise as we move closer towards the January competition date,” AD Evelyn Wynn said.

Additions to those modifications include not allowing fans until COVID metrics established by the AIA are appropriate. No scrimmages, invitational tournaments, region tournaments or out-of-state competitions will be allowed.

“We do not know how it will play out but we will continue to remain hopeful for winter and the spring season to have a chance to compete,” Hale said.

Arizona has had more than 4,000 new cases of coronavirus reported today during an ongoing surge.