Start of winter high school sports pushed back

Basketball seasons among those delayed by tightened COVID-19 restrictions


Coaches for Season B sports had been looking over their shoulders for about a month, waiting to find out if their teams would be able to play as originally scheduled.

Then, word came down Dec. 7 that due to rising COVID-19 cases in Colorado, the start of Season B would be delayed. Practices can begin Jan. 25, and competition can start Feb. 1. Season B sports include boys and girls basketball, boys and girls wrestling, girls swimming and diving, ice hockey and spirit.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent a communication to the Colorado High School Activities Association that the scheduled start of Season B on Jan. 4 will be pushed back and no variances will be given at this time to CHSAA. This could also mean the planned starts of Seasons C and D could also be affected.

“Obviously, it is tough news to hear that we may indeed be losing even more games already cut down from 19 to 14 at the varsity level,” said Cherry Creek boys basketball coach Kent Dertinger. “I understand the need to push it back for safety reasons, and ultimately, I just hope the seniors will get to play a senior season, even if it is modified. We already have a sour taste in our mouths after the way last season ended for us, and we are chomping at the bit to get going again. We carry that chip on our shoulder daily and promise to leave it all out on the court this season.”

Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of CDPHE, sent a letter to CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green and expressed concern about holiday festivities swelling the transmission of COVID-19.

“Hospital admissions are steadily increasing, and the past six weeks have produced a significant increase in the number of deaths statewide. With the Thanksgiving holiday just behind us and the impending December holiday festivities, we are very concerned that the rate of transmission will continue to increase,” Hunsaker Ryan wrote, according to a news release issued by CHSAA.

Hunsaker Ryan said there was not enough information to determine what the cases and hospitalizations would look like in January and that Season B sports would operate under restrictions in the level on the dial of the county of the school. For counties in level red — which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, Denver, Adams and many other counties — that means no indoor sports are authorized.

She also said the priority is on a return to in-person learning for students and noted that Season B sports are conducted indoors, which reduces the ability to ensure social distancing.

"This in turn may further promote disease transmission at a time when we need to ensure that students and teachers are protected and that in-person learning is the highest priority," Hunsaker Ryan wrote.

Coaches of Season B teams are left to keep looking over their shoulder and study reports to find out if there will eventually be a season.

“Having the season moved back again is hard for sure,” said Rock Canyon girls basketball coach Becky Mudd. “Basketball, and all sports, are absolutely needed right now, and we should be looking for ways to do them with safety protocols in place. We are used to hearing over and over that sports are an integral part of the educational experience and that we are developing the whole child, and yet now the narrative is that we can't have sports. We have to get back to school first.

“I would contend that the two are intertwined, that we need to find ways to do both. I also believe that participation in some way, even if modified, would have noticeable and measurable positive effect on student performance.”

Heritage hockey coach Jeremy Simms has adjusted his time with his players.

“It has been very difficult keeping the players motivated, but we have just needed to get creative with practices and include more fun games in practice," he said. "This has been a very difficult year for out teams, coaches and players. The players have continued to work hard and continued to develop even though they are not sure when or if they will be playing games.

“When I let the players know the CHSAA season was pushed back again, they were all very disappointed but decided to take it as an opportunity to keep working and get ready to play... when it does start up.”


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