Bolts V Sheridan

Thunder Basin seniors Mason Hamilton, left, and Caleb Driskill embrace after a 35-26 loss to rival Sheridan in the Class 4A state football championship game in Laramie last year.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association has announced it expects all six varsity fall high school sports will start on time next month.

WHSAA has collaborated with the Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming Department of Education to approve guidelines to safely start athletics leading up to schools being back in session.

Practices for Class 4A football, golf and tennis will start Aug. 10. Practices for 1A-3A football, cross-country, girls swimming and diving and volleyball will start Aug. 17.

“We are excited for our students,” WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird said in a Tuesday press release. “We appreciate the WDH and WDE working with us to be able to approve a plan we all believe can safely return our students to their sport.

"We know the mental and emotional issues those students experienced last spring when track and soccer were canceled.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said student safety is the main priority when it comes to allowing fall sports.

"I cannot overstate the importance of allowing students to safely participate in activities this fall," Balow said. "Activities are essential to the physical, emotional and social well-being of our children and fundamental to our mission in K-12 education of building character and necessary skills in our youth.

"My staff, the WHSAA, and the Wyoming Department of Health have diligently created a framework for activities that schools and communities can use this fall. It will take all of us, including parents and the students, doing our part to make this fall successful."

Balow said it will take a concerted effort by everyone involved to have a successful season for all sports and the focus is to provide opportunities for students to participate.

"I have complete confidence that our administrators, coaches, parents and fans will join forces and follow the guidelines to benefit our students," Balow said. "With the ever-changing conditions that exist during the COVID-19 pandemic, we know we are going to have to be flexible and ready to adjust. We believe we have those plans in place for each sport.”

The WHSAA Board of Directors will provide further guidance to schools concerning the six fall sports to assist them in their planning of social distancing for each sport. Reducing the total number of competitors at each event will be a priority and WHSAA will consider adjustments to culminating events like regional and state tournaments to reduce numbers as well.

The guidelines schools must follow include social distancing; screening athletes, coaches and officials; sanitizing equipment; required face coverings when social distancing isn't possible (including during transportation); constant communication with the county health departments; keeping athletes in cohorts; and social distancing spectators who live in different households.

Other measures include:

  • Different households must physically distance from other households while watching events.
  • Face coverings are strongly encouraged to be worn in situations where social distancing is not possible.
  • Schools should consider limiting spectators to immediate family members or parents, if required, to allow social distancing and space.

WHSAA has sporting event guidelines divided into three tiers.

Tier one

Each school will be responsible for screening athletes, coaches and team personnel. The host site of events will be responsible for screening officials, event personnel and fans.

Proper sanitizing measures must be used for all equipment and facilities and hand sanitizer must be available at the entrance of the facility.

When social distancing isn't possible, face coverings are encouraged for everyone except athletes, but athletes could be required to wear face coverings in certain activities.

Tier two

If a school has a positive COVID-19 test, the school must move into tier two and follow all tier one protocols. The school must also work with local health officials to determine the appropriate level of participation in activities.

Tier three

If a school is in tier three, all sporting events will be cancelled until the school re-enters tier two. Once back in the second tier, school districts will work with local health officials to determine if the school should participate in sporting events.

Face coverings are recommended before and after events for athletes and event staff should wear face coverings and gloves when possible.

WHSAA has implemented a one-year plan in which the highest-seeded football team will host the state championship game. WHSAA plans to have the game return to the University of Wyoming in 2021.

Andrew Rose, head coach of the Campbell County High School football team, said the possibility to have a home game for the state championship in November is a big motivator for his team.

"It's a big motivating factor going into the season, especially for our seniors," Rose said. "It's not a normal thing, so it definitely presents itself as an opportunity."

Rose said the state guidelines are a responsibility of school districts and coaches across the state to follow to ensure high school sports can be played through the season.

"Everybody has to do their due diligence," Rose said. "We're going to do everything we can do to play the game and to play it in a safe way.

"We'll do whatever it takes, we'll wear masks inside our helmets if we need to."

The state volleyball tournament also has been adjusted and will take place over a four-day span, with 1A playing Nov. 4, 2a on Nov. 5, 3A on Nov. 6 and 4A on Nov. 7.

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