The start of winter sports will be delayed after the Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board voted in a special meeting on Thursday to postpone the beginning of season to Jan. 5.
The last permissible date for winter sports competition will be Feb. 19, which includes play-in competitions. Teams must have a minimum of 14 days of practice before competition can begin.
The board's decision comes after the AIA recommended to its board on Monday to postpone the beginning of the winter sports season.
“We feel that the students are safer within the school environment than not to be in school at all,” AIA Executive Director David Hines said in a press 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 Executive Board felt it was necessary to fight for these students to have a chance. They see the need in the schools they are representing,” Hines added.
Originally, Lake Havasu High athletic programs were scheduled to start winter competition in early December. LHHS and other high schools in Mohave County have been allowed to practice since Nov. 9.
“Ultimately, the AIA is going to do what they deem and believe is the safest for our athletes to still compete,” Lake Havasu High Athletic Director Dustin Zampogna said. “I wholeheartedly trust the AIA is doing the best job that they could be doing and I’m just happy that we’re not shutting down yet. We’re not completely canceling the winter season so we’re fortunate that the AIA is going to the length they are essentially to try and make a winter season happen.”
Mohave County was cleared to begin winter practices with no restrictions after meeting metrics from a chart released the by AIA on Nov. 5. All of the Knights’ winter sports programs are still allowed to practice under current guidelines from the AIA and the Lake Havasu Unified School District.
When the chart was released, Mohave County was the only county in the state to not have any practice restrictions in any sport. The chart was based on metrics set by the AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
At the time of the chart’s release, Mohave County had 55 covid-19 cases per 100,000, a 3.7 positivity rate, and hospital visits were at 2.2 %. Lake Havasu City has a total of 1,454 coronavirus cases with 22 new cases reported on Wednesday, according to the Mohave County Department of Public Health. The county reported 57 new cases on Wednesday, increasing its total to 5,089 cases.
According to Thursday’s press release from the AIA, the start of competition will begin if the following guidelines are met:
• If a student-athlete participates with a non-school team/group, that student-athlete is excluded from practice and competition with the school team for 14 days since the last practice or competition of the non-school team/group
• All winter sports modifications are required
• No fans will be permitted until metrics are appropriate. AIA staff will be commuting with schools and districts statewide to evaluate readiness on a regular basis.
• No scrimmages, invitational tournaments or region tournaments will be allowed
• No out-of-state competitions will be allowed
Per the press release, Conference leaders will meet at their earliest convenience to develop qualification procedures and a minimum number of contests for teams needed for postseason consideration.
The delay of winter sports pushes back the start of spring season practices, which have been postponed from Feb. 8 to Feb. 15. According to the AIA, championship dates in all spring sports will remain as scheduled.
“The spring season being pushed back only one week is a good decision that the AIA made,” Zampogna said. “Especially because the spring season, those kids didn’t get to finish out the spring season last year.”