We’re all tired but we are also all competitors and we need to finish this thing we are in now. We have to stay positive, we have stay focused on the things in our control and we MUST be ready to move when we get the chance. One of my favorite sayings of all time is the definition of luck: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

In other words there is no such thing as luck, luck smiles on those who are ready whenever that opportunity presents itself. So regardless of when they say we can play basketball, wrestle, play football or any other sport you have to be ready to go. As difficult as it is right now it is even more important than ever before to dig down and use the skills playing sports and what your coaches have taught you.

Goal set, be a self starter, be a leader, focus, be accountable to yourself and most of all believe in yourself and your teammates and when the time comes be ready to compete.

I remain extremely confident, in fact convinced there will be games played this season. I don’t know how this is all going to look and listening to WIAA Executive Board President Tim Thomsen talk about their latest meeting from Tuesday we know they have several paths to playing. I love the fact the WIAA exec board refuses to push anything off the table and continues to keep everything open with the laser focused goal of just having some competition.

I began writing this column prior to the Governor announcing plans to start ramping up getting kids back in school and the WIAA’s response to that announcement but what I did write was the signs were already there to be positive and now even further confirmed by the Governor’s latest announcement. But prior to that, the Governor’s office and the State Department of Health had already begun listening to the data provided by the WIAA and OSPI. 

For example, in October when the State changed the guidelines they had originally put Volleyball into the high risk category but the WIAA presented information and data that pointed out that Volleyball when played with masks and the fact there isn’t much person to person contact should not be in the high risk category the Department of Health agreed and dropped Volleyball to Medium risk. 

In November when the Governor re-instituted some lock-down measures he did not stop those Districts that were doing some in-person learning nor did he shut down sports practices that were outdoors. He did shut down the in-door practices but he again referenced much of the data provided by the WIAA and OSPI in not shutting down those programs. Additionally, National Health experts such as Dr Fauci are now saying one of the safest places for kids to be are in schools and programs that are following the safety guidelines rather stringently. 

I know it is frustrating and we live in a world now where apparently we need everything now and there is no room for anyone to further learn or understand how something we have never seen before works and what are the best ways to deal with it. Have there been mistakes? Have we been doing things we shouldn’t have been doing or not allowed to do things that we should have been able to do sooner than later? Yes, but when dealing with something like this virus Health and Government officials need to prioritize what is most urgent on down.

I don’t know the reason why we weren’t allowed to go fishing in May but I am thinking that may not have been high on the to do list at that point in time. My point is, no matter what your personal thoughts are, has the overall response to this virus been reasonable for the past 9 months? It is hard for me to say no especially when I have no idea what I would have done in that particular decision making process. Do I agree with everything? No Can I live with it at this point? Yes, especially when I see new data coming in, being analyzed and then conditions changing.

It seems to me right now in the middle of this spike which is the worst we’ve seen so far it would have been easier to say look at the numbers, it’s too high we’re shutting down everything. But instead we are seeing movement in the heart of the worst numbers by far. It shows me the decision makers are listening and sifting through more and more hard information that they are receiving and making decisions based on that data. Is it coming as fast as some would like it? No, but is that also more our problem as a spoiled society that must have what we want now?

As important as High School sports are to those who compete and are running out of time to compete where does it rank in importance to getting first responders vaccinated, trying to relieve the stress on our health care system or trying to shield those most vulnerable from catching this virus? Playing sports probably lags behind those issues. But High School sports has not been ignored and the data showing the effects of not being in school, around friends or participating in sports or activities is also becoming a lot more clear and has the attention of the decision makers from their own actions.

This is why I remain positive we will have sports. The WIAA and every single Athletic Director in the State have created schedule after schedule preparing and staying ready to move forward when they can. There are still changes to comes. I am not optimistic that basketball and wrestling will begin in February, I think that is a longshot at best. I am not optimistic we will see a form of traditional District and State play-offs. I do hold out hope that Spring sports may be the ones most in position to see something close to normal.

So what do I think we will have? I think we will have a patchwork of offerings and in different areas of the state local leagues and schools coming together to create some kind of schedule to play and compete. I can see area or league post season opportunities coming together. I see other sports of the low or moderate risk being moved up into February and March. I see other sports being pushed back and stacked on top of each other and yes I believe many athletes will have to choose one sport over another they want to play.

I can see some leagues or schools offering cross country, soccer, bowling and swimming in February and March and Basketball and Wrestling being pushed to the Spring stacked on top of the Spring sports. I can see Football and Volleyball remaining where they are in late March through April. Most of all I see our Athletic Directors and District Directors working with the WIAA in creating as many opportunities as humanly possible without kids having to make a choice as much as possible, but we will play.

This is good news especially for kids. I have talked with many athletes, coaches and AD’s and the tide is turning quickly to the appreciation of just being able to compete. I have heard from some highly recruited players saying they are considering early admission into their colleges so they can be there for Spring football but if they could know that the chance of putting on their High School uniform even one more time and playing with their friends then they would stay. 

Coaches are telling me how kids are so appreciative of getting to be around other players and just doing some very simple drills or conditioning. One AD told me they just need to be with a friend right now. So the pomp and circumstance of State Tournaments, Parade of Champions, standing on a medal stand or playing in a big venue all take a back seat to what kids really want which is to simply play. We even put up a 24-hour flash poll for athletes asking what was most important to them as far as playing this year and 62% said just playing games with maybe a League post season was most important only 38% said games and a State Tournament.

Let’s put this all in perspective and if indeed we want what is best for kids the WIAA will simply sideline all State Tournaments on January 4th and encourage schools and leagues to follow the protocol the WIAA has ALREADY established and that is to play what you can, when you can against who you can. The WIAA has created an “express line” to approve such agreements between schools and leagues. Executive Director Mick Hoffman has the power to approve such requests on a moments notice and is on record as saying if a group of schools or a league can play soccer for example in February and March and they have agreed to an 8 match season he will approve it in 5-seconds and they can go play.

In that scenario that group can determine if they want to have a champion and what format it would be. What we don’t want is to prevent some schools from playing something just because some schools can’t. The word normal must be erased from 2020-21. There will be no normalcy period. It is all going to be different and that’s ok.

The biggest winner of this whole trying period is going to be sports themselves. You can already feel the appreciation again grow for the simple task of just competing and how important that activity is to all of humankind. Whether it be on a field or a debate dais. Let’s focus on playing and do everything we possibly can to make that happen. Once that happens then we can consider other things like Championships and Tournaments and maybe even fans allowed to attend. 

Stay positive, stay focused and stay prepared and ready to MAKE your own Luck.




By paulb

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