The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board voted during a special meeting Thursday to postpone the start of the high school winter sports season until Jan. 5 in response to rising COVID-19 rates across the state.
Competitive play for winter sports including basketball, soccer and wrestling was originally scheduled to start on Nov. 30.
This move will give schools more time to develop protocols to safely conduct winter sports while trying to keep students in school as virus cases trend upward, said AIA Executive Director David Hines.
“Delaying the start of the season will give our coaches and administrators time to implement safety protocols and put sports modifications in place,” Hines said. “ Just like getting fall sports off the ground, doing things the right way will allow for our sports to continue.”
According to the AIA, the start of the winter competitive season will be based on five factors:
- If a student-athlete participates with a non-school team/group, that student-athlete is excluded from practice and competition with the school team for 14 days since the last practice or competition of the non-school team/group.
- All winter sports modifications are required.
- No fans will be permitted until metrics are appropriate. AIA staff will be communicating with schools and districts statewide to evaluate readiness on a regular basis.
- No scrimmages, invitational tournaments or region tournaments will be allowed.
- No out-of-state competitions will be allowed.
Friday, Feb. 19, will be the last permissible day of competition for winter sports, including any play-in competitions, according to AIA officials.
Teams will be required to hold practice for a minimum of 14 days before competitive play. Winter sports practice for many area high schools began earlier in November.
To compensate for the postponement, the upcoming high school spring sports season, which was scheduled to start on Feb. 8, has been delayed to Feb.15.