The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) Board of Directors voted on Thursday, Aug. 6, to delay the start of the sports seasons for the 2020-2021 school year, with a condensed model beginning in December with winter sports.
Locally, Indian River High School student-athletes now have the knowledge that they will still — potentially — get a chance to play one last season donning the green and gold threads.
“While it is not the answer I am sure everyone was hoping for, we can look at the positive from this that there will still be sports this school year,” IR athletic director Todd Fuhrmann said. “We now have some extra time to prepare our student-athletes to get ready for their seasons. We will continue with our conditioning workouts, and our coaches can now begin their off-season programs in anticipation of their respective seasons.”
The DIAA will continue to work with its member school administrators, athletic directors, sport committees, athletic trainers and DIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee on specific season start dates. Initial talks in the DIAA’s Return to Play plan have the winter sports season starting sometime in December, with competitions beginning in early January 2021. The plan would have games end mid-February 2021, with all state tournaments being run as normal.
The delayed fall sports season would see its practices begin mid-February 2021, with the first date for competition taking place in mid-March 2021 and the season wrapping up mid-April 2021. That would allow for six weeks of competition and two weeks for state tournament play.
The proposal would also allow for a six-week football season, should the sport get clear guidance from the Delaware Division of Public Health. There would also be a two-week football state playoff, with the postseason being reduced to the top four teams in both divisions.
Delaware DPH representative Dana Carr joined the Aug. 6 virtual meeting to share the department’s guidance on high-risk sports. She had noted that football and wrestling are not included in DPH’s sport-specific guidance, and are therefore not approved to be played at this time. The DIAA maintained that they will continue to work with DPH during the COVID-19 pandemic to revisit guidance and sport-specific guidelines.
The spring sports season would see practices start mid-April 2021, with games starting in early May 2021. The conclusion of those games would be mid-June 2021, with the state tournaments running as normal, over a two-week period.
Gov. John Carney had announced on Tuesday, Aug. 4, that Delaware schools may open under the state’s Scenario 2 hybrid model, with a mix of in-person and remote instruction and significant safety precautions to limit transmission of COVID-19.
“Since interscholastic athletics in Delaware came to a grinding halt in March, the DIAA has been working to return our student athletes and coaches to participating in interscholastic athletics,” DIAA Executive Director Donna Polk said in a press release.
“We are thankful to all involved for their shared commitment to get sports back in the educational setting while realizing the significant benefit to the emotional, mental, social and physical well-being for student-athletes. We thank our member schools and community members for their patience to this point.”
With their fall sports seasons now delayed, many student-athletes have had to find other avenues in which to play their sport of choice. There have been venues throughout the state — and even across the border in Maryland — that are promoting sport-specific leagues for the student-athletes to get their competitive juices flowing now.
DE Turf is hosting both high school and middle school divisions for 7-on-7 football, boys’ lacrosse, boys’ soccer and girls’ field hockey. The cost for individual players is $75, with the league running Sept. 15 through Oct. 31.
Delaware Shore Field Hockey is hosting a high school fall field hockey league on Sundays starting on Sept. 13, at the Champions Stadium at Cape Henlopen High School.
The soon-to-be-opened Sandhill Fields in Georgetown are also looking to host a 5-v-5 field hockey league.
So, while the current situation may not be what everyone had been hoping for, the opportunity to actually have a season is still in play, and that is something many will be focusing their efforts on.