MONROE — After pushing the fall sports season back to the spring in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Monroe High School could make the decision to push back the start of the winter sports season too.
At the Monroe Board of Education meeting Oct. 11, District Administrator Rick Waski proposed pushing the start of the high school winter season back a full month, with practices starting in late December and competitions beginning in January. The middle school winter sports season would be canceled.
Ron Olson, the district business administrator, high school principal Chris Medenwaldt and assistant principal Jeriamy Jackson, high school activities director Jeff Newcomer and middle school athletic director Ryan Thompson were all in agreement with the proposal.
“So much like was the case in the fall for fall sports, the WIAA is basically allowing school districts — for the most part — to do what they want to with winter sports,” Waski told the board. “When I say do what they want to I’m saying that they’ve outlined the season, they’ve outlined a minimum start date, they’ve outlined when the season would end.”
The WIAA had already trimmed the length of the winter season by about three weeks, starting with delaying the opening of practices to late November, then moving up the end dates in March.
“They pretty much lost about three weeks,” Newcomer told the board. Pushing Monroe’s start dates back would mean the loss of another four to six weeks in total. “We’re still going to schedule as many games as we can, taking into account safety, obviously, and rest periods.”
Monroe would still qualify for any postseason play, should there be a postseason, because the WIAA has “gotten rid of that requirement of the minimum contest” rule, Newcomer said. “But like I said, we’re going try to get as many games as possible and by the reduction of the season, and it will be short and sweet, but it’ll still make great memories and experiences for our kids.”
Should Monroe have to transition from Plan C — where all instruction is virtual — Waski said that doesn’t mean the teams will cease practice or competition.
“In general, we agree that we shouldn’t be playing when we are in Plan C, but we don’t want to make an absolute rule,” said Waski, who will have the final say. “For instance, (if) I move the district to Plan C the day before the sectional wrestling tournament and nobody scheduled to wrestle is positive or quarantined, I don’t think it is reasonable to tell that wrestler you can’t go and try to qualify for the state tournament because COVID-19 numbers are up elsewhere in the district.”
However, he did say that we would also not be afraid to suspend sports for a week or two during Plan C for the general safety of the district under most circumstances.
When competitions are held, spectators will be limited — likely to between 2-4 fans per athlete or coach — and masks will be required, similar to what the Six Rivers Conference has done for volleyball this fall. Waski proposed that opposing fans would not be allowed in, and the varsity games would likely be livestreamed online. Waski said it was “almost a 50/50 split” of Badger Conference superintendents that wanted to allow away fans into home games.
“As we’ve seen around the area with fall sports, some schools have been able to play their volleyball season, while others have suspended play,” Waski said. Darlington, Black Hawk and Pecatonica shut down for nearly two weeks due to quarantine and are just now ready to return to action. “I desperately wan to see our teams participate — if we can do it safely.”
Middle school sports being canceled was an easier decision than high school sports, Waski said. Most of the schools that MMS plays against have already indicated they will not be participating in winter sports easier.
Waski also said that at the middle school level, the “risk does not match the potential reward” for the student athletes, unlike at the high school level, where most athletes have trained for years and the chances to compete before graduating are shrinking by the day.
“We want to give them a chance to do so, but we want to reduce the (COVID-19) risk that they, and the rest of the students are exposed to,” he said.
Winter high school sports for Monroe include boys and girls basketball, boys and girls hockey, and wrestling. The board is expected to make a decision regarding the winter sports season at its Oct. 26 meeting.