One day after the Kansas State High School Activities Association officially canceled all spring sports and activities in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the association held a conference call to debrief athletic directors.
“We needed some questions answered,” Labette County Athletic Director Sean Price said. “There’s so much in the air. We really don’t know what’s going on. We want to be well informed so we can give kids correct answers at this point.”
The biggest news to come out of the call was the KSHSAA’s directive to school districts to continue planning for summer activities — including weights and camps — as if they’ll happen on schedule.
“It gives me the go-ahead,” Price said. “Our summer weights start on June 1. So we’ll plan for that. But in two weeks, that could all change. But I have a summer calendar and I’ll plan all that out. June is very busy. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Hopefully it doesn’t get disrupted.”
The KSHSAA also informed schools that any student-athlete who elects to compete in club or travel sports this spring won’t lose eligibility the following year, although the association strongly advises against participation.
“It’s pleasantly surprising that they’re telling us to plan summer activities as usual,” Parsons Athletic Director Rob Barcus said. “I also like that if kids play on a club team, they won’t be ineligible. That’s big.”
The hope that summer programs can still go on as planned was one of the first rays of hope for athletics around the state after state basketball tournaments and spring sports to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re just looking for reassurance that we can have summer programs,” Barcus said. “That’s the best news we’ve received since last Friday as far as athletics.”
“I’m not surprised at any of that,” Cherryvale Athletic Director Rodney Vigil added. “Those are issues that every school will deal with. I’m glad they’re encouraging the kids and still keeping the coaches involved. Like everybody else, we’re just waiting for some guidance.”
Spring sports regional fees — a fee that schools pay per sport to the association — will be rolled over and credited to the fall.
“We knew the fees weren’t going to be reimbursed,” Vigil said. “We knew they’d credit them, but it’s good to get on the same page.”
Another item to come out of the conference call was clarification on transfer students’ eligibility. The KSHSAA is extending the time student-athletes must sit out after transferring schools from 18 weeks (a semester) to 36 weeks (a full year) starting with the 2020-21 academic year.
However, students who transferred during the second semester of this year would still only face the 18-week clock. The association told athletic directors on Thursday that any student who transferred over spring break would have to be enrolled in school and taking classes through a continuous education plan, otherwise the 18-week clock would not start.
The association also encouraged school districts to provide support for athletes, particularly seniors, who are dealing with the loss of their seasons, and send workout schedules to athletes.
“As a track coach, I reached out to my seniors and I’m sure my other coaches have reached out,” Barcus said. “Obviously we want to help our kids as much as possible.”
Kansas has been one of the most aggressive states to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic — the state was the first in the country to close schools for the rest of the academic year after Gov. Laura Kelly’s order on Tuesday. At the time of publication, there were 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kansas according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
While the state’s and country’s response to the pandemic has been particularly brutal on athletics, Thursday’s conference call helped shed perhaps the state’s first light on when and how athletics will return.
“Honestly, they did a good job of answering a lot of questions we had,” Price said. “Now everybody is wondering what we do for the summer. I didn’t want to waste time if it wasn’t going to happen. We’ll see what happens over the next month.”