Fall sports for Delaware high schools to return Oct. 19 after DIAA votes to reinstate
On Thursday afternoon, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) voted in favor of allowing fall sports to resume.
The original plan that had been discussed by the DIAA leading up to this decision was to have fall sports such as football, field hockey, cross country, soccer and others move their sports seasons into the spring. By that time, it is expected that COVID-19 should be controlled better with the possibility of a vaccine being available as early as the beginning of 2021.
The DIAA voted to begin competition on Oct. 19, with practices and conditioning beginning on Sept. 28.
The DIAA Board of Directors began their meeting at 9:00am on Thursday, and the meeting ended around 4:30 pm, totaling just about seven and a half hours of deliberation. Many concerns about how schools will deal with a potential outbreak, as well as many other topics, were brought up by numerous members of the board.
Several members of the board expressed concerns for student-athlete mask requirements, especially when it comes to student athletes who have braces, in which they are also required to wear a mouthpiece.
“If the kids are wearing a mask, how do we, or the coaches, enforce and determine if they’re wearing their mouthguards?” Board Member Stan Waterman said.
Fellow Board Member, Dr. Bradley Bley, suggested pregame checks by officials and a system of sanitizing each player after having to prove their usage of a mouth guard.
The majority of professional athletes have not worn masks since professional sports have returned. Those athletes have the luxury of being tested for COVID-19 almost daily, the DIAA and its athletes, however, won’t have that luxury.
The DIAA will require wearing a mask for the majority of sports, chairperson of the Board of Directors and Principal of Sussex Central High School, Bradley Layfield said.
“Without a mask, we’d have to modify rules, like eliminating slide tackles, and other things like that,” Layfield said.
According to the DIAA, the risk of not wearing a mask certainly outweighs the normalcy that comes with not wearing one.
The return of high school sports in Delaware will instill a sense of regularity for student athletes, as the majority of Delaware high school students returned to a virtual learning environment.
During the meeting, St.George’s Technical High School head football coach and head of the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association (DIFCA), John Wilson, joined to relay his observations after consulting with high school football coaches from states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio regarding their model for a return to play.
“We started back in May; we know with football being a high-risk sport [that] we would have to come out with something that would paint a picture on how we could implement rules and regulations,” Wilson said.
The DIFCA proposal included potential ways that student-athletes could play the sport while continuing to wear a mask. One way was a gaiter-like mask that players could pull over their facemask, while the other was a visor-like attachment to the bottom of the facemask.
Wilson stated that Vermont is going forward with these protocols for players in regards to the unique facemask attachments, and he also stated that he’s begun sessions with his St. George’s players, who didn’t like the mask at first but have since gotten used to it.
During the meeting, Layfield stated that the DIAA had received 191 emails from student-athletes, parents, as well as others regarding the status of fall sports for high school students. According to Layfield, out of those 191, 184 of them petitioned for fall sports to retur.
Many Delawareans want the return of fall sports in high schools, but with COVID-19, things can be unpredictable. Board member and Principal of Early College High School, Evelyn Edney raised her concerns about how a COVID-19 outbreak would be handled by high school teams.
“I’m nervous. If and when we start sports, just, you know, how quickly are we gonna find out that some team has it?” Edney said.
The DIAA Board of Directors decided to delay decisions about transfers, waivers and tournaments. The return of fall sports for high schools is a sign of normalcy for student-athletes, but there are still many unanswered questions for the DIAA.