Resident Press reported last week that the Arkansas Activities Association has suspended all high school athletics competition in the state through March 30. The administrator interviewed at the AAA further indicated that the suspension applied to competition only. At that time, the decision to practice was that of the local school districts.
On Monday, the AAA expanded this suspension to include practice sessions. RP contacted the AAA on Monday to again ask for a clarification of the AAA suspension period. When asked if the ban included practice sessions that contradicted their original statement, the AAA official responded, ” Yes, (suspension includes practices) after the Governor closed all schools, we enacted a dead period. This was different than our original statement before the schools were closed.”
“Dead periods” are not uncommon to high school sports in Arkansas. Dead periods fall every year during the last week in June and the first week in July, prohibiting schools to practice, workout, or meet with coaches during this period. It was originally designed to give both student-athletes a break in the summer, and to relieve coaches from criticism that some may be working harder or longer hours during the summer than others. The dead period gave everyone two weeks off before the school sports season began for the upcoming school year.
The use of the term “dead period” by the AAA is consistent with the summer dead period in which no competition or practices can take place during the March period that was announced last week.
This is a very difficult time for everyone, and to some, the mere conversation about sports when people around the world are dying from the COVID-19 virus is hard to understand. But in small town America, high school sports are part of the everyday fabric of life, and not having the opportunity for citizens to watch their children compete against those from neighboring communities is a tough adjustment. Amid everyday life that may include unemployment, difficulties at home, sickness, etc., sports are a relief to the everyday world for a lot of people.
But here is the upside to all of this. Locally, our weather forecast has indicated that approximately five out of the next ten days will include rain, So, even if the suspension period were not in effect, there would have been a good possibility that the games would not have been played this week. Secondly, most schools have an abbreviated sports schedule during spring break. Some, in fact, do not play during spring break. So, if…..the AAA decides to reinstate sports on March 30, and, if…..the Governor reopens schools on or about that date, there is the possibility that high school sports in Arkansas could resume to some degree without our students having missed that much of their schedules.
In my interview with the AAA official, he continued by saying, “We strongly encourage all club, travel, and non-athletic programs to follow suit with the State Associations, NCAA, MLB, NBA and other sport organizations and cease practice and play. Join the effort to stop the COVID-19 virus so we can ALL return to play.”
So, in a much broader and serious sense, the COVID-19 virus will be the ultimate determining factor. Certainly, no one wants our children to be put at risk just to play or practice. If the virus were to occur in a school’s local county, I would expect that to play a major factor in the decision to continue sports. The bottom line is, we all love sports and want our sports lives to resume as closely to normal as possible, but none of us could bear the thought of one of our children getting sick with the virus because we rushed the decision to resume sports competition and practices. Or, the thought of a grand parent who contracted the virus while attending a grand son or daughter’s game. The thought of this happening would be unbearable.
When I asked the AAA if there had ever been a case like this in which all sports were suspended due to an illness or viral epidemic, the response was, “To my knowledge we have never had a situation like this.”
These are extraordinary times, and it will take extraordinary sacrifices on all of our parts. Let’s protect our children and coaches first, and then we can get on with the sports that we all hold near and dear to every community.