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Hot Corner: A step in the right direction

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

With the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) recently releasing the guidelines for summertime activities to begin July 1, it’s a positive step forward for local high schools.

Although not a guarantee a fall season will occur, I feel allowing athletes back on campus this summer is needed as a first step.

After the spring sports seasons and tournament series were canceled in April, the WIAA announced it was extending the summer contact to 30 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At that time, I was unclear if we’d get to this point by the end of June, but I was optimistic.

Some local schools like Ashwaubenon have already announced plans to bring their athletes back, and others will be doing the same soon.

Because it’s up to each district whether to allow or not allow contact time, I have heard some schools across the state have already decided not to bring their athletes back this summer.

Where cases of COVID are high, you might see administrators not wanting to take the chance of spreading the virus.

Plus, it’ll give a district another two months to come up with a plan before potentially bringing athletes back in the fall.

The trickiest part in my mind is deciding what modifications can be made to fall sports – if that’s even possible.

I love football more than anyone, but it doesn’t have natural social distancing like some other sports – it’s high risk.

It might come down to playing the game as is or not playing at all.

Athletes can practice social distancing during the summertime and in school to a point, but when you have 80 guys in a locker room, there’s no social distancing going on.

You have 22 players on a field at one time near one another trying to block and tackle others.

I’m trying to imagine what football could look like in the fall, but I don’t see how it can be changed, except maybe have reduced fans in the stands or play an eight-man game.

Maybe we’ll see the referee spraying disinfectant on the ball between plays, although, per a May 21 article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it said the transmission of the virus is not easily spread through contaminated surfaces.

I know it would cost more and districts don’t have extra money to throw around, but it could also be made mandatory for players to wear face shields to help reduce the spread.

Of the other fall sports, cross country (with staggered starts), golf, soccer, swimming, tennis and volleyball are listed as low- to moderate-risk for the spread of COVID.

The CDC says with proper sanitation and/or personal-protection equipment, some of the above-mentioned sports could be moved to the low-risk category.

I’m not sure if WIAA rules allow for the canceling one sport altogether, while keeping others during a specific season.

If we do see sports this fall, like the Northwoods League (where the Green Bay Booyah play), you probably won’t see as many high-fives, group hugs or team celebrations – although that will be nearly impossible to monitor and enforce.

COVID cases have risen in some parts of the country during the past few weeks, but deaths have continued to decline.

There are many reasons for this, ones I can’t discuss in a 600-word article.

The Press Times is planning to produce its second annual football tab in August, but that’s on hold for the time being, too.

Three months ago, I couldn’t imagine not having a fall high school sports season, so I’m anxiously awaiting what’s next.

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