Fall sports are on at the high school level after the WIAA Board of Control affirmed a decision from last month. Activities are at the discretion of local district, county, and conference officials.
The meeting began with a sobering presentation from Dr. Tim McGuine, who pointed to an explosion of depression among teens and young adults. Typically, WIAA surveys show moderate to severe depression affecting fewer than 10% of student-athletes. McGuine says that it is now nearly 40% for more affluent districts and almost 50% for children in low-income families. McGuine noted a return to sports could help alleviate some of those numbers. He mentioned myocarditis, heart inflammation, which can be a lingering condition from respiratory viruses like COVID-19. McGuine concluded that because screening for myocarditis is up significantly in recent months, we have no way of knowing if COVID-19 is more problematic than a child’s reaction to the traditional flu. He said we aren’t as vigilant in monitoring symptoms of other viruses until they become health risks. McGuine also noted that high school student-athletes are younger and have lower body mass indexes than college players, meaning that they should prove significantly less susceptible to COVID-19. He gave an unqualified recommendation for fall sports to return.
The WIAA has set up a portal that would allow for athletic directors to schedule replacement games if their original opponent is unable to field a team due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Other recommendations were to limit competition out-of-state except for districts that are located near a state border. The Board of Control then discussed six potential alternate schedules if conferences decide to move fall sports to the spring. They adopted unanimously the recommendation from the executive committee, which would shorten both winter and spring seasons to accommodate fall sports in a new slot. Volleyball would be one of the first sports back along with swimming, football in early March, and soccer towards the back end of the new window. All seasons would be shortened, although the max number of games would not decline. Overlap will exist as well, which could complicate things for multisport athletes.