MANSFIELD -- Is it possible to complete a high school sports season amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
One state in the United States was in fact able to accomplish it. Iowa just completed its high school baseball and softball seasons this summer. Approval for a return to play was granted on May 20. The season ended at Principal Park in Des Moines last week.
In other regions, including athletes in Richland, Ashland, Knox and Crawford Counties, student-athletes are training and preparing for their respective sports.
So, we asked Tom Keating, Executive Director of the Iowa High School Athletics Association, to share his state's experience and perhaps offer some tips for Ohio's leaders who are navigating the same waters.
"What happened between the lines was positive," Keating said. "The AD’s, coaches and players were phenomenal at following protocol."
Keating reported 96 percent of Iowa's baseball and softball teams were able to complete their seasons. That included 336 schools and approximately 20,000 student-athletes.
By comparison, there are more than 820 member schools in the Ohio High School Athletics Association.
Keating said 6% of Iowa teams were impacted with individual or team quarantines at some point during the season. Testing was not required, a hot topic in Ohio athletic circles at the moment.
No Iowa athletes or coaches were hospitalized with a COVID-19 illness and there were no deaths, Keating reported.
Here were Keating's complete thoughts in our exclusive interview:
RICHLAND SOURCE: We appreciate your time, and wish you the best of luck this fall and beyond. Thanks for joining us.
TOM KEATING: My pleasure.
1. RS: Have high school baseball and softball seasons always taken place in the summer in Iowa as they did this year?
2. RS: Were there any other high school sports that competed with special guidelines from the governor, state health and education departments?
TK: No, although we issued guidelines for off-season workouts.
3. RS: Do you have a link to what those guidelines that were used in baseball/softball?
TK: I believe most of what you are looking for can be found here.
4. RS: What percentage of teams across Iowa were able to complete their seasons in baseball and softball?
5. RS: How many schools and how many athletes participated in high school sports this summer across Iowa?
TK: 336 schools. Approximately 20,000.
6. RS: Did you have any setbacks in the process?
TK: Only in regard to programs that were impacted for COVID-19. As you may be aware, 6% of our teams were impacted with individual or team quarantines at some point during the season.
7. RS: Was testing of athletes mandatory for high school competition?
8. RS: What procedures were put in place to deal with a situation when a high school coach or athlete came up with a positive test?
TK: School was required to contact their local county health department and follow those recommendations/directives.
9. RS: What experiences did you learn from completing a high school sports season that will help you plan the next sports season?
TK: What happened between the lines was positive. All cases, to our knowledge, were contracted outside the program. The AD’s, coaches and players were phenomenal at following protocol. So … if protocols are followed, we have a good shot at completing our seasons. It will be important for coaches to stress to athletes that their interactions outside the team will impact the team so they should be careful where they go, who they interact with and they should always take precautions.
10. RS: What advice would you give to other state high school athletic associations that you've learned from starting and completing a season amid COVID-19?
TK: Put protocols in place. Be patient. Be flexible. Be creative. Be problem-solvers. Thing will change on a daily basis. One size will not fit all.
11. RS: What, if any kind of resistance to starting a season did you face, and how did you address it?
TK: Concerns regarding how we could do it safely. Concerns about bringing people together – especially fans. We allowed local decisions on limiting spectators and/or masks.
12. RS: Would you term the high school baseball and softball seasons a success?
TK: Yes. 96% of our teams completed their seasons. 94% experienced no interruption of their seasons. We conducted a state tournament of 28 games in 8 days.
13. RS: Will Iowa have a fall high school sports season with contact sports, most notably football, later this fall?
TK: At this point, we are planning to conduct all fall sports.
14. RS: If so, when would it start, and what guidelines will you implement for football in particular?
TK: We have established general and sport-specific guidelines. Those are available at (this link).
15. RS: Were any high school athletes and/or coaches hospitalized with COVID-19? Any deaths?