01STOCK_BASKETBALL

Optimism.

That seemed to be the consensus for most area coaches and administrators over the weekend when it came to a winter sports season.

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc with the fall sports season, forcing many area schools to opt for a truncated spring season.

Now, with sports moving indoors for the winter season, COVID concerns escalate. The WIAA released a statement in October stating that “viral transmission is much more likely indoors than outdoors, some studies report 19 times higher.”

Still, winter sports, as of late last week, were a go for many area schools. By Monday, those decisions were up in the air for schools in Rock County after the health department announced a move back to Phase 1 of the COVID-19 reopening plan. Special school board meetings were set for Tuesday and today for Janesville, Milton, Edgerton and Evansville.

Janesville Parker student-athletes began practicing Monday and, pending changes made at tonight’s board meeting, are allowed to begin competitions Monday, Dec. 1. Parker’s boys basketball team is scheduled to play at Edgerton that night.

Janesville Craig has gone back to virtual learning until at least Nov. 30, which means all winter sports programs can’t begin practice until that date and would not be eligible for competitions until Saturday, Dec. 5.

Parker boys basketball coach Matt Bredesen believes a winter season is doable if the proper COVID guidelines are followed.

“It can be done,” Bredesen said. “I’ve been running AAU fall leagues, showcase events and open runs on a weekly basis, and we’ve had no issues.”

The Southern Lakes Conference recently wrapped up a fall sports season that featured football, boys and girls cross country, girls golf, girls swim, boys soccer, and girls tennis. And although football had several COVID-related postponements and cancellations, all other sports encountered very few problems in regards to the coronavirus.

Elkhorn Area High athletic director John Handel said the winter sports season for the Southern Lakes Conference was slated to begin Monday with the start of practice for girls basketball and gymnastics.

“Hopefully, for us, the winter sports season will go as smoothly as the fall season did,” Handel said over the weekend. “We really didn’t have any problems, so to speak.

“It’s going to be different for those competing and watching games because our conference put together specific COVID guidelines, but as of right now we plan on a full season.”

One of those Southern Lakes guidelines requires all athletes except swimmers to wear a mask at all times, even when competing. Fans will also be required to wear a mask, and only two fans per athlete will be allowed at each competition.

The Rock Valley has said it will attempt to play as many conference competitions as possible for all winter sports, but with conference-member McFarland opting out of winter sports until Jan. 24 at the earliest, conference champions will not be crowned.

As of now, the Rock Valley will also not allow spectators at any events.

Guy Stricker is in his first year as assistant principal and athletic director at Orfordville Parkview. He’s gone out of his way to try and give Parkview student-athletes a chance to compete this winter after having the fall season canceled except for cross country. His proposal to have all student-athletes competing in a winter sport learn virtually while still being eligible was recently passed by the Parkview School Board.

“The easiest thing to do was to probably go by what the Rock County Health Department recommended, and that was to not have winter sports at this time,” Stricker said over the weekend. “But I needed to try and do whatever I could to give our kids the opportunity to go out and compete. I think by learning virtually, we can make this work.

“The kids will learn at home, come to school for practice or a game at 3:30, have their temperature taken at the door, and if they have any symptoms at all or are not feeling well, they’ll be sent home. Our maintenance crew will sanitize everything before and after each practice, and hopefully we can avoid any serious issues.”

Many area schools have not hosted an indoor athletic event since last March.

Will that change in the next couple of weeks? School boards are set to—once again—make those decisions this week.

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