If and when the high school winter sports season begins, several coronavirus-related rules and regulations will be in place.
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Control met Friday and approved updated safety measures to assist schools as they prepare for competitive indoor events.
“Viral transmission is much more likely indoors than outdoors, some studies report 19 times higher,” a WIAA release states. “Knowing that winter sports are all played at indoor venues, there may be elevated risk for viral transmission. Be smart and safe, and even more diligent.”
A key component from Friday’s release of “Winter Sports Guidelines” was how each district is expected to deal with positive COVID-19 cases, those exhibiting symptoms and those that come in close contact with anyone who tests positive.
Fourteen days is the required number of days that anyone exposed to an infected person or coming in close contact with a positive COVID-19 test must self-quarantine.
Any student-athlete who has symptoms of COVID but has not been tested must self-quarantine for at least 10 days.
They cannot return until all COVID symptoms have subsided. The same goes for anyone who tests positive.
Also, according to the WIAA guidelines released Thursday, when arriving at the venue for a contest, coaches will exchange a tracing sheet and verification form signed by the coach and athletic director acknowledging that the students have been pre-screened and the tracing sheet is accurate. When departing for the contest, coaches take their tracing sheet and verification form signed by the coach and athletic director acknowledging the tracing sheet’s accuracy. If a coach cannot or does not produce the tracing sheet when verification is requested, it shall be reported to the WIAA office by the opposing coach.
Boys and girls basketball, boys and girls hockey, wrestling, boys swim and girls gymnastics are Wisconsin’s winter high school sports. All of them will see COVID-related guidelines this season.
The days of the jump ball to begin the game and to start overtime are over for now. The visiting team will receive the ball to begin the game, and a coin flip will determine who gets the ball in overtime, if necessary.
The basketball will be sanitized during timeouts and between periods.
Face masks are not required for players but will be allowed, while coaching staffs and other bench personnel will be strongly encouraged to wear masks.
The WIAA also recommended halftime shows be suspended, but if cheer and dance perform, they will be asked to wear masks and socially distance.
All equipment will be sanitized after each event, and chalk bowls will no longer be allowed.
Athletes, coaches and spectators are expected to wear masks at all times, except when athletes are competing or warming up.
Invitationals or tournament competition are strongly discouraged. The WIAA is recommending participating teams schedule only dual meets between two schools.
Sharing equipment of any kind is now prohibited by the WIAA.
Spitting, clearing your nose or coughing are prohibited.
Masks must be worn by players upon entering a building and cannot be taken off until warmups. Players aren’t required to wear a mask while playing but also have the option to wear a neck gaiter.
To minimize the use of locker rooms, swimmers are asked to arrive at the venue wearing their competition swimming suits.
Swimmers and divers should wear face coverings up until stepping onto the blocks and upon exiting the water.
Wrestling is the one sport that thrives on invitationals, such as the prestigious Cheesehead Invitational that draws some of the country’s top high school teams to the two-day event. Those are likely to be put on hold this season.
The WIAA is recommending scheduling six to seven days in between competitions and having only one local opponent in a single-day, dual-meet format.
Wrestlers may not use a neck gaiter because it is considered a choking risk.
Practices for some of the winter sports—girls basketball, gymnastics and boys and girls hockey—can officially begin practicing Nov. 16. Boys basketball, wrestling and boys swim begin the following week.
Of course, whether sports are played at all will be determined at the local level. Athletic directors from Janesville’s Craig and Parker high schools said the Big Eight Conference is set to meet this week.
Locally, the Big Eight, Badger and Rock Valley conferences opted to move their fall sports to the WIAA’s alternate spring season.