There are essentially two rules for sports in 2020: 1. Follow all COVID-19 guidelines and protocols to the strictest letter of the law in order to continue playing.
2. If you successfully accomplish No. 1, be prepared to be flexible.
Masks and distancing. Disinfecting and cleaning. Cohorts and contact tracing. Since sports resumed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes, coaches and teams have been asked to follow strict protocols.
Those that find their way through all of that must then keep an open mind to scheduling, planning and how they handle snafus and adversity.
We’ve been reminded of that through local examples over the past few days.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the yet to be seen ...
Jets play two
On Thursday, the Janesville Jets opened their North American Hockey League season with a 6-4 victory over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
The Jets weren’t scheduled to play again for more than a week. And yet the two teams were back on the ice the very next night, with the Jets winning 8-3 to complete the sweep.
The Jets were two games into their season a week ahead of schedule.
Well, Fairbanks was set to play in Minnesota on Friday night, but that game was called off.
Since they were already in town, and the Jets and Ice Dogs had another game scheduled for a couple weeks down the road, they simply decided to get it over with while both teams were healthy and ready to go.
“They were going to come back in two weeksfor another single, but they were notified Thursday after they got to Janesville that the Magicians couldn’t play,” Jets president, founder and managing partner Bill McCoshen said.
“So we had a quick discussion about getting a second game in.”
It wasn’t just a talk between the two teams. They had to figure out if they could use the Janesville Ice Arena on Friday night.
The ice was slated to be used for youth hockey, but they agreed to let the Jets have the ice.
Like I said, flexibility.
“I sent an email to the board of youth hockey and apologized and said I hope it never happens again on short notice, but it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. We don’t know how many games are going to be postponed or rescheduled due to COVID,” McCoshen said. “Everybody worked together and made it happen. It wasn’t ideal, at least for youth hockey, but it certainly helped the Jets in this situation. And we’ll give the ice back on the 19th for the night there was supposed to be a game against Fairbanks.”
If the Jets were the example of some good coming out of flexibility, the Delavan-Darien boys soccer team fell under the “bad” category over the weekend.
Not the Comets themselves, mind you—they did everything they could.
They were the No. 1 seed in the WIAA Division 2 boys soccer state tournament Saturday that took place in Marshfield. COVID-19 had the WIAA shifting state tournaments to different places, so a trip to state this year meant a three-hour trip up north rather than an hour drive up I-43 to Milwaukee.
Delavan-Darien’s three-hour trip turned disastrously longer when its bus broke down on the way to Marshfield. The Comets arrived at 3:45 p.m. ... for what was supposed to be a 2 p.m. semifinal match against Sauk Prairie.
Nothing ideal about it, but the Comets got off the bus and went on with the show. They dominated the run of play and outshot Sauk Prairie 9-2 in shots on goal over 90 minutes.
But they lost, 2-1.
No telling what the state championship match would have looked like had Delavan-Darien won and played in the final just a short time later that night. Surely the players would have been flexible and forged on, but they didn’t even get that opportunity.
As for what is yet to come, we’re about to see what winter high school sports look like in Rock County.
After almost every school district in the county postponed their fall sports to the WIAA’s “alternate fall” season scheduled to be played this spring, several districts have now voted to move forward and attempt to play this winter.
School boards for Milton, Edgerton and Beloit Turner made that decision Monday night. Evansville was already on board. Janesville’s school board meets tonight to discuss the matter.
Each district’s athletic directors have already worked long hours to have detailed plans in place if their winter sports move forward.
Milton AD Jeff Spiwak said at Monday’s board meeting he is on his fourth iteration of the winter schedule. And there are likely plenty more changes to come.
The Badger and Big Eight conferences have already said they won’t have league seasons or crown champions. So putting together a schedule means working with teams from those leagues that are playing, as well as others from the surrounding area, to fill out a slate.
Spiwak also said he has been working with other area ADs so that the teams that are on Milton’s schedules are all adhering to the same protocols that the Red Hawks are using. If everyone in every gym, pool or wrestling room is on the same page, at least winter sports will get a fair shot.
Will it all work out? Surely not.
Fall hasn’t been perfect for the teams in Wisconsin that have tried, either. Schools have gone virtual. Programs have sometimes been shut down for weeks at a time. Games have been postponed or canceled, sometimes at the very last minute.
Things have not been perfect and they will not be perfect. That’s life in 2020.
But follow the guidelines put in place, hope for the best and adapt to the worst, and sports teams in 2020 might at least have a chance.