Hot Corner: Foreshadowing by the WIAA
By Rich Palzewic
BROWN COUNTY – At its July and August meetings, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) said if the organization didn’t offer fall sports to student-athletes, other entities would come in and swoop players away.
In other words, local clubs and municipalities wouldn’t let athletes lie idle while their schools didn’t offer sports.
In the Green Bay area, Notre Dame Academy, Seymour and West De Pere are playing at least some of their fall sports, while Ashwaubenon, Bay Port, De Pere, Pulaski and Green Bay public high schools East, West, Preble and Southwest moved all of their fall sports to the spring.
Like the WIAA foreshadowed, it hasn’t taken long for other offerings to pop up.
One such example is the 6-on-6, flag football passing league being offered by the Ashwaubenon Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department.
“We wouldn’t be offering the high school option if they were playing football this fall,” said Rex Mehlberg, director of the department. “We’ve always offered the league to third through sixth graders, but offering for the older kids is new this year.”
Mehlberg said with so many middle and high schools canceling or postponing, the league is an inexpensive option ($200) for teams.
“It’s certainly a modified version of football,” he said. “It gets kids out on the field, but there’s obviously no tackling and things are more spread out. In a passing league, you have a quarterback and five receivers on offense with six defenders on the other side of the line of scrimmage. This format minimizes the contact so many people are worried about with COVID-19.”
Mehlberg said he’s hoping other area athletes join, not just Ashwaubenon.
“If some of these schools can’t play, they can get a team together for some friendly competition,” he said. “It won’t replace the real game, but by playing, it won’t be a total disintegration of the season.”
He said offering the league is a fine line.
“We want to work with the area school districts, but we don’t want to be the cause of transmissions of COVID, which ultimately could close schools,” said Mehlberg. “No private club or organization wants that to happen, but we are all scrambling right now – whether it be volleyball, football or basketball. Clubs are getting inundated with phone calls.”
Mehlberg said there were a few COVID transmissions during the Ashwaubenon youth sports leagues this summer, but none were player-to-player.
“They were cases of parents testing positive for COVID and then passing it on to their kids,” he said. “From the standpoint of players passing it to others on the field – at least in Ashwaubenon – we didn’t see any of that in our outdoor leagues.”
Additionally, I saw a report out of the La Crosse area that said a local football club, the LAX Bandits, is trying to form a team to play against other local high schools this fall.
If schools cancel or postpone seasons, it’s a given other groups will find a way to play.
In a previous Hot Corner article in the Aug. 21 edition of The Press Times, I said how the Michigan High School Athletic Association postponed its fall football season to the spring after teams had been practicing for a week.
In a dramatic reversal, the fall season has been reinstated.
Whereas I’m happy for the players, schools and coaches in Michigan, the whole process has been a roller coaster of emotions for all those involved.
The season started, the season was postponed and then the season began again.
In addition, all high school football teams in the state will qualify for the playoffs this season.