The Wyoming High School Activities Association approved a face covering mandate for all winter sports and activities this week, signaling that the second sports season of the academic year is scheduled to start on time.
The first allowable day for basketball and wrestling practice is Monday. Competition for girls basketball is scheduled to start Dec. 10 while boys basketball, wrestling and boys swimming begins Dec. 11.
Indoor track will begin in January.
After completing the fall sports season with minimal cancellations and uninterrupted playoffs and state tournaments, WHSAA Director Ron Laird said winter sports will begin with stricter COVID-19 restrictions than the fall programs had.
That will include fewer people allowed in gyms and penalties for schools that don’t follow any potential mask mandates for spectators and other public health guidelines, Laird said.
“It’s going to be imperative that fans follow these guidelines,” Laird said. “Our board’s goal is to complete the season, so they’re pretty serious about it. If we have schools that choose not to wear masks or their fans aren’t wearing masks at the contests, then we will have to take some sanctions on those schools.”
Penalties for schools not enforcing mask wearing could be a disqualifications from state and regional tournaments, Laird said.
“We want to have the season and this is how we think we can get it done,” he said. “If the fans don’t comply then they run the risk of having their school be penalized.”
Gov. Mark Gordon announced new restrictions for gatherings Thursday, limiting the number of fans able to attend indoor events to 25% capacity or 100 people maximum. Social distancing is required.
Gordon did not annouce a mask mandate for the state of Wyoming, but Laird said WHSAA feels it’s a necessary precaution to ensure winter sports are able to participate for the entire season.
“The winter sports are going to be a little more challenging just because where we are at as a state,” Laird said, referencing surging COVID-19 cases. “We’ve put some more restrictions on and the state is also coming out with some new orders that will take effect on Monday that will have more restrictive capacities in the gym.”
Learning from the past
While it was an accomplishment that fall sports were able to finish, Laird said the state still has a lot to learn about how to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We’re pleased that the fall went pretty well,” Laird said. “We just think it’s important now for people to take a step back and appreciate the fact that our kids did get to have a season. There’s a lot of states that haven’t got to have anything yet.”
People were grateful fall sports could continue, but they forgot the state also is dealing with a pandemic, Laird said.
“As the year went on, all the sudden winning became more important and we kind of lost that appreciation and forgot the bigger picture,” Laird said. “We want to finish the season. That’s certainty our goal as we go into the winter.”
WHSAA will continue to adapt and alter restrictions and protocols as information on COVID-19 develops, Laird said. If fans aren’t comfortable wearing masks, Laird encourages them to livestream the games at home through the NFHS network.
“If they aren’t going to wear (masks), they don’t have to be there,” Laird said. “We’re not really into the argument of whether we like masks or we don’t like masks. I’d say probably all of us don’t like masks. But this is the rule.
“We wear the masks so kids can wear the uniforms.”