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Column

Area coaches hoping for fall seasons

The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the spring sports seasons in Iowa. It took away the last several weeks of school. And it also altered the summer sports seasons for some.

With the coronavirus still alive and well, some are wondering what is going to happen in the fall when kids go back to school.

Will there be a fall sports season in Iowa? And how will it look?

The Iowa High School Athletic Association put out a statement on Friday, stating as of right now it was preparing to move forward with a regularly scheduled fall seasons of football, cross country and Class 4A boys golf.

"The health and safety of our student-athletes and their communities has been our priority as we work to provide opportunities during this pandemic, and we will remain so as we move into the 2020-21 school year, " the IHSAA said in a statement. "We will continue to work with our partners at NFHS, IATS and with the Iowa State government to develop protocols and sport-specific guidance and will adjust as necessary."

So the plan is to move forward as normal, but as we know the pandemic is ever-changing. We have a ways to go before we hit the first practice date of August 10.

The IHSAA also stated it would provide more informaiton on guidance sometime next week. And like in the summer, schools can opt out on an individual basis if they so choose.

How hard will it be to have a season in the fall based on the guidelines and protocols in the summer? I asked some area coaches for their input and opinions.

"I think that having football in the fall is a tough task, but it is possible," Newton football coach Andy Swedenhjelm said. "Everyone wants to play football, and I know that our kids are willing to do whatever it takes to play. We will provide whatever support we can to our students to make sure they are as safe as possible."

Football is a full-contact sport so spreading the virus is likely much easier. But that doesn't mean it's not possible.

Cross country has its own obstacles, most notably the start lines where all the runners are bunched up in one area.

Golf is the easiest to social distance in. So that likely goes off without many issues.

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has not issued any public statements yet, but how will volleyball work?

It's still thought to be much safer outdoors than indoors because it's easier to socially distance when you are not inside of a building.

Volleyball is the only sport in the fall that takes place indoors and athletes are sharing the same ball throughout the match.

"I do think we can do volleyball safely, similar to how baseball and softball worked," Colfax-Mingo volleyball coach Michelle Grant said. "However, I don't think we can do it without having as many or more teams that are out because of positive tests. Not due to exposure during volleyball but exposure during real life. The virus is spreading, and it spreads fast.

"Can we do it? Yes. Should we do it? I just don't know. I am concerned that we aren't being careful enough."

That is the biggest issue right now. There is no doubt our society needs to try to get back to "normal." But at what cost?

I don't know what the right answer is. And I am not against trying to play. Hopefully, everyone does their part in making it as safe as possible.

"Cross country is doable as it is outdoors and has a lot less direct contact between participants," Newton girls cross country coach Rachelle Tipton said. "Races do get spread out and distanced but the start boxes and first 100-800 meters can be tight. I think another challenge will be reminding spectators to leave plenty of distance between themselves and the course."

Jeff Linder, a sports writer from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, published a story recently about flipping the fall and spring sports season around to make sure we get all seasons in.

It's an idea that some area coaches feel should be getting more consideration.

"I like switching spring and fall sports around," PCM volleyball coach Mike Vittetoe said. "It's going to be pretty tough having an indoor sport right now. I think that is the best solution to us not losing a sports season."

Tipton understands the thought behind switching but also knows when her runners are able to compete at their best.

"The thought of flipping is nice, as it might insure everyone gets their seasons," Tipton said. "However, if the weather is "normal", for my athletes it is better to have the XC team peaking as the weather turns cooler and the track team peaking as the weather warms ups."

Swedenhjelm also likes the idea of flip flopping the seasons. He feels like the most important thing to do is make sure we get the seasons in at some point.

"I would be for pushing it back to the spring if that was a serious option," Swedenhjelm said. "I want to do everything in my power to let our athletes have a great experience. My heart breaks for those student-athletes that had to miss spring and summer seasons. Our program is on board for doing whatever it takes for our kids to have a safe and successful season, either this fall or in the spring."

Contact Troy Hyde at thyde@shawmedia.com

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