AIA board reverses course, allows winter sports The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

AIA board reverses course, allows winter sports

January 19th, 2021 Mesa Tribune Staff
AIA board reverses course, allows winter sports
Sports
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By Zach Alvira
Tribune Sports Editor

Just days after voting to cancel the winter sports season amid the surge in COVID-19, the Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board voted reversed its decision Jan. 12.

The 5-4 re-vote in favor of beginning winter sports on Jan. 18 followed an identical margin to cancel them. Jim Love, who represents the Flowing Wells Unified Arizona School Boards Association, changed his vote and joined proponents of winter sports.

Love said his change of heart was largely due to his desire to give schools the choice whether to have sports on campus.

“This has been a very difficult decision for the Executive Board,” AIA Executive Director David Hines said in a press release. “They have been weighing the concerns of the medical community, including the AIA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, and the requests by our member schools. We all want winter sports to happen, but it must be done safely.”

The AIA board’s initial decision to cancel winter sports was met with backlash from players, parents and coaches across the state.

A small protest of athletes formed outside AIA offices shortly after the initial Jan. 8 announcement to cancel winter sports. A group of athletes and parents returned Jan. 12.

A petition calling for a re-vote was created by a North Canyon student and shared across several social media platforms. The petition was signed by over 30,000 people in just a few hours.

Additionally, administrators and coaches immediately began brainstorming basketball, soccer and wrestling leagues independent of the Arizona Interscholastic Association. Several schools said they would explore options to give athletes an opportunity to compete at some capacity.

“I kind of anticipated one of the five people would change their vote,” Mesa wrestling coach David DiDomenico said. “I really wasn’t that concerned, I think we just had to be patient. It’s a big relief. Now we don’t have to go through all the logistical stuff with another league. It’s a big relief.”

In approving the winter sports season, new recommendations were also adopted.

The board voted unanimously to allow two parents or guardians per player to attend as long as local mandates on the number of individuals allowed at events is not exceeded.

Each school will be required to complete the AIA COVID-19 Athlete and Coach Monitoring Form on the day of athletic events. Those forms must be exchanged with opposing teams and will be monitored by officials. If the forms are not exchanged, officials will be pulled from the contest.

Additionally, masks must be worn at all times by coaches, officials and athletes, even those actively participating. Hines said any school that violates the guidelines will lose access to officials.

“The kids were going to compete anyway, so it’s better to be structured under the AIA than try to do that without them,” DiDomenico said. “Parents coming to see them with facemasks, that’s consistent with what happened in the fall. I know at Mesa High and the rest of the Mesa Public Schools, we are going to follow that policy.

“As far as kids wearing facemasks while they compete, that’s up to us as coaches to enforce it and tell them this is what needs to happen. They’ll be fine.”

The AIA Executive Board emphasized throughout Tuesday’s meeting the need for schools, players, coaches and parents to abide by the new guidelines to ensure the safest possible environment for winter sports to continue.

Overall, they acknowledged the possible risk to the already strained healthcare system across Arizona due to COVID-19 and emphasized it will take action from all of those involved to make the season a success.

“This has been a very challenging situation. While we all desire to have our high school students in school and participate in interscholastic sports and activities, we feel it is imperative to consider the recommendations of medical professionals based on their expertise,” the board said in a joint statement.

“Reinstating the winter season poses a risk to the healthcare system, which could impact students who may be injured.

“We believe that these additional modifications will serve to mitigate this risk as much as possible. Our member schools and families must understand how critical it is to adhere completely to all modifications.”

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