A delay to the start of Season B for high school sports isn’t optimal, but it gives coaches hope that the season will be played.
“As much as I hate it for the kids, the push back gives us a better chance of having a season,” Fruita Monument girls basketball coach Michael Wells said Monday after the Colorado High School Activities Association announced a three-week delay in the start of practices for winter sports.
“I hate that it’s going to be shortened, but shoot, at this point, if you gave me four scrimmages, I’d be ecstatic. I’d rather have it pushed back than have it be canceled, but at the same time, we’ve been cooped up so long, we’re ready to go.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent a letter to CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green on Sunday denying a variance that would allow boys and girls basketball, boys and girls wrestling, girls swimming and diving, skiing, ice hockey and competitive spirit to begin practicing as planned on Jan. 4.
Rising coronavirus cases across the state prompted the CDPHE’s decision on indoor sports, and as a result, Season C and Season D will also be adjusted.
“At this time, we do not have enough information about what disease incidence and hospitalization capacity will look like in January and therefore are unable to make a determination regarding indoor high school athletics in Season B,” Jill Hunsaker Rye, the executive director of the CDPHE, wrote in the letter to Blanford-Green. “Season B high school sports would operate based on the restrictions in the level of the (COVID-19) Dial in the county in which the school resides. For counties in Level Red, this means no indoor group sports are authorized.”
Currently 31 of Colorado’s 64 counties, including Mesa County, are at Level Red.
CHSAA has submitted a plan that now calls for Season B to begin practice Jan. 25, with competition from Feb. 1 to March 20. That plan will have to be approved by the state health department, with Gov. Jared Polis’ COVID Response Team planning to meet in mid-January to discuss variances for the season, CHSAA said in a release.
Before Monday morning’s Zoom meeting with CHSAA to get the update, District 51 Athletic Director Paul Cain was worried the message would be that the season was being canceled.
“There is hope that things being delayed, there is still a possibility of getting a Season B, C and D,” Cain said. “Going into it, I didn’t have a good feeling. With the delay, I feel a lot better about having an opportunity for the kids.”
Palisade boys basketball coach Clay Kame agreed with Cain that a delay is the best option.
“They kept saying ‘Be ready on the 4th, be ready on the 4th,’ but we never heard ‘Here’s what we’re going to do if we can’t do the 4th,’ ” he said. “Hopefully this is the last adjustment they need to make and we can move forward.
“I think it’s going to be a challenge if they have to cancel or move to a different season. Then you split baseball and basketball; that could happen. I’m hoping we get to get in there in that January spot.”
Wells also hopes basketball stays in Season B and was happy to see all seasons moved back to avoid overlapping and forcing athletes to choose one sport over another.
“As long as they keep giving us an opportunity where kids don’t have to make choices of which sport,” he said. “My group has a lot of soccer players, a lot of good soccer players, and their ability in soccer makes them good at what we do basketball-wise (playing an up-tempo style). If they had to choose between soccer and basketball, I don’t know if I can field a team. Pushing it back gives everybody a crack. The further along they go, the better it gives us a chance to play and that’s all we really want.”
Cain said he planned to contact the Mesa County Health Department to discuss the possibility of having open gyms after the first of the year so kids could start to get back in shape, even if they have to limit the number of players and mandate face masks. Currently, athletes can gather outdoors in groups of no more than nine if they want to work out on their own.
Cain and the four District 51 athletic directors decided to hold off reworking the winter game schedules until the state grants approval to play.
“We don’t know how many contests,” Cain said. “The commissioner didn’t get the information (from the state) until 8:50 (Sunday night) and it was very vague. We don’t know if we’re looking for basketball if it’s 14, 12, 10 (games) or what.”
Central wresting coach Clint Trujillo is encouraging his athletes to condition on their own so when they do get the go-ahead, they’ll be ready.
“You don’t want to get caught (unprepared) when the season starts,” he said. “Like with football, it was all of a sudden, you guys are going.”
Like the other coaches, Trujillo is hoping for the best.
“I’m optimistic, hoping we just have a season. As long as there’s still hope it’s fine to me that they push it back,” Trujillo said. “I just want everyone to be safe, obviously, that’s first and foremost, everyone stays safe.
“The kids need an outlet and I would feel horrible for them, our seniors, all these years of putting in work. As long as they’re still saying we’re going to move it back but there’s a good chance you will have a season, I’m fine.”