Idaho prep fall sports still on schedule

Emmett High assistant coaches and football players are currently holding a summer football camp at the Emmett Middle School field with all intentions of experiencing a fall football season this year. The team is practicing at EMS as the track surrounding Huskie Field at the high school is currently being resurfaced.

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As states across the nation are putting a pause on fall high school sports, Idaho is full steam ahead.

As of Tuesday, the early August start date for fall practices is still in place, Idaho High School Activities Association executive director Ty Jones said.

That doesn’t mean that Idaho isn’t prepared to adjust the start dates if the state continues to see COVID-19 spread.

Jones said committees have met three times this summer planning for all possibilities. He said if schools believe that extra curricular activities are an important part of education, then sports must be part of schools reopening this fall.

He said he understands why people wonder if fall sports will be played. He’s watched as college conferences like the Ivy League have canceled fall sports.

“My feeling is we’re going to have fall sports, but it might not look normal,” Jones said.

Jones said the IHSAA board is meeting Thursday to finalize guidelines for schools on how to practice and play safely and how to safely involve fans. He said this is just a recommendation. How to implement such plans will be up to the individual school districts statewide.

“The thing we’ve focused on more than anything else is how are you going to safely allow kids to participate,” Jones said. “What are you going to do with your fans? How are you going to address a positive test and what is your return to play protocol?”

He said he will continue to monitor hot spots throughout the state. He said if one district in the state can’t start fall play on time but another district can, then the district that can begin play safely will be allowed to do so.

“We can’t wait for each district to be ready to play,” Jones said. “If we’re looking to get everybody on the same schedule we may have trouble starting. We want to give a lot of leeway to districts.”

Fall teams may begin practice Aug. 10. Football teams that have games scheduled as early as Aug. 21 may start practicing Aug. 7, Jones said.

“We’re cautiously optimistic, but we’re also realists,” Jones said. “We see what’s going on.”

Jones said everything that can be thought of as possible options to delaying the start of fall sports has been considered including moving football to spring.

“We’ve talked about literally everything,” Jones said. “We’re smart enough to know we can’t leave anything off the table. It would definitely be our preference not to move sports. But it’s important to get our kids playing and playing safely.”

The IHSAA waited as long as possible last spring before canceling spring state tournaments. He said the state will do so this fall if needed.

“One thing I’ve discovered during this pandemic is I’ll never say never,” Jones said. “We’ll wait as long as we possibly can.”

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