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The Kansas State High School Activities Association’s continued response and planning around the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as various other rule changes, are on the agenda for the association’s Board of Directors meeting on Friday.
The meeting will be conducted online via Zoom on Friday at 3 p.m. The Board of Directors meet twice annually and this is the first meeting since the KSHSAA canceled the state basketball tournament and all spring sports amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The biggest items on the agenda involve various adjustments that the KSHSAA intends to recommend to the directors regarding its plans to slowly reintroduce sports and other activities back to schools.
The association’s sports medicine advisory committee is recommending that no changes be made for required student-athlete physicals at this time as it says it’s too early to make a decision.
The KSHSAA is also recommending that it move forward with its implementation of a new one-year ineligibility rule for transfer student-athletes. The association passed that rule during last fall’s Board of Director’s meeting but considered delaying its implementation due to the COVID-19 crisis.
A possible elimination of any summer moratorium is also being recommended by the KSHSAA with the rationale that even if schools are able to get a complete summer, the cancellation of spring sports created enough of a disruption to warrant additional time.
In addition to eliminating a summer moratorium, the KSHSAA is planning to modify the amount of contact coaches will be allowed with student-athletes during the summer.
“With the entire spring being lost, coaches have lost some valuable time with kids,” said Parsons High School Athletic Director Rob Barcus. “Hopefully the contact period will be different this summer and they’ll allow more contact.”
As part of the KSHSAA’s plan to reintroduce summer workouts, the association is recommending guidelines for acclimating athletes back to workouts with a 10-day acclimatization period. If adopted, the first five days of any summer activity for any sport would be limited to a maximum of three hours per day. Then on the sixth day, activity wouldn’t extend more than five hours per day until the 10th day. The KSHSAA is also aiming for an Aug. 17 start for fall sports practices.
“I think KSHSAA has done a good job of taking everything into account with coming up with plans that’s based on fact and common sense,” said Labette County Principal Shane Holtzman, who is a member of the KSHSAA Board of Directors. “I’m impressed with what they’ve laid out.”
Proposals from Olathe and Hays are also recommending that local school districts be granted control to determine their own academic eligibility standards for the fall semester for students in seventh, 10th, 11th and 12th grade. KSHSAA policy is already granting immediate eligibility for 6th and 8th grade students while freshmen in high school are always eligible upon entering high school.
“That’s making allowances for kids that don’t have support or technology at home to finish their school year,” Barcus said. “If grades were frozen with so many weeks left, that student may be stuck. I hope that’s a common sense thing that doesn’t have to be open for debate.”
Any resumption of athletics by school districts will be subjected to approval from local health authorities and school district administration.
In addition to the slew of coronavirus related actions being recommended by the board, the KSHSAA is also tackling various other issues, two of which involve tennis.
The first tennis proposal is to create a two-year classification cycle for boys and girls tennis, similar to what football operates under. Traditionally, the KSHSAA requires schools to submit enrollment counts on Sep. 20 of every school year, which is well into the girls’ tennis season.
“It’s affected us in girls and boys tennis,” said Jane Posch, the Parsons High School head tennis coach. “You’re weeks into the season then you see what schools come into your region. It’s always nice to know ahead of time who we’ll see and who we’ll prepare for.”
The other tennis proposal will allow schools to compete in four tournaments that start earlier than 3 p.m. on school days. The previous restriction was two.
“That’s been a long time coming,” Posch said. “It gives us an opportunity to play more tournaments than just duals, triangulars and quads. It puts our kids more on par with what golf does. We want the opportunity to play more tournaments outside of our league. It takes a full day to play a tournament and you can’t do it on the weekend.”
Barcus added that starting tournaments earlier, while students may miss class time, allows athletes to return home earlier for healthier sleep habits.
“It cuts down being on the road late,” Barcus said. “If you can start earlier, you can finish earlier. Yeah, they miss some class time. But if they can get home at 9 p.m. instead of midnight that’s a good trade off.”
The ongoing concerns of vaping among minors is another issue the KSHSAA will attempt to tackle at Friday’s board meeting as it is proposing that any student-athlete who uses any electronic nicotine devices will not be in good standing.
“They’re making a point of ensuring that we don’t want student-athletes going down that avenue,” Barcus said. “We’ve treated it as a tobacco policy. I don’t believe any athletes were caught vaping here.”
Two other proposals on the table at Friday’s meeting include limiting transfer student-athletes from non-member schools to the non-varsity level and allowing KSHSAA-designated cheerleading and spirit competitions to be ranked.
The KSHSAA doesn’t have any explicit proposals for any changes to fall sports on the agenda at this time. KSHSAA Executive Director Bill Faflick previously told the Sun that any concrete decisions on fall sports would come as more time progresses.
“We need to return to normal as soon as possible. I can’t imagine a fall without athletics,” said Labette County Superintendent John Wyrick. “Our kids need high school activities. It’s a part of their daily lives. I hope as KSHSAA rolls this out, that we’ll have some type of season. Whether it’s a modified season or not. It doesn’t even have to have a postseason. We just need a season of any type.”