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AIA director gives update on return to high school sports

(Photo by Jake Anderson)

The Arizona Interscholastic Association on Wednesday approved a return to fall sports using a phased-in approach.

AIA Executive Director David Hines told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Thursday that they’re unsure of the exact metrics, but outlined the plan and which sports would start soonest.

“We’re starting with low-risk, minimal-concern sports as in golf and then phasing in swimming and cross country slowly before we get to volleyball and then football late,” he said.

“So we are smaller groups than typically bringing everybody back to school in person, so we feel with the mitigations and the modifications we have that we can be an example of how you can continue to bring our kids back safely.”

Football can start practicing on Sept. 7, with the regular season starting Sept. 30 and championship contests scheduled for mid-December.

And even if Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey extends the delay of schools reopening beyond Aug. 17, Hines says that per AIA rules, practices and games can still take place at the discretion of the school or school district.

“We will all follow CDC requirements in their county health departments,” Hines said. “The metrics are going to be placed more on counties instead of the statewide metrics, so there could be different counties that have different metrics and be allowed to do things that other counties may or may not be able to do.

“So we would follow all CDC guidelines for any contract of COVID-19 and that type of quarantining would take place. If a team had to quarantine for a couple weeks then those games would not be forfeits — they would just be no contest.”

Hines said that high school athletes across the Valley have been able to work out all summer long.

“They have been doing a tremendous job of following the modifications and the guidance that our sports medicine advisory committee has given to them,” he said. “Cases have at this time been minimal, so we would follow our medical directors and the county health departments.

Even with the allowance of districts to have sporting events when classes are not in-person, Hines acknowledged that authorities could halt the games.

“Obviously the county health department could shut down or the state governor could shut us down as they did last spring,” he said.

The AIA executive director added that returning to sports benefits not only the kids participating, but also the surrounding communities that support them.

“We just wanted to give our kids an opportunity for those that wanted to do that to try to be able to get some semblance of sports in which is critical for our kids at the high school level,” Hines said.

“Our kids’ mental health is being affected right now and the communities support our kids and that’s a rallying point for some communities. We want the opportunity for them to get back, even if it’s limited to some semblance of a season.”