The Fox River Classic Conference, which includes Sheboygan North and South, announced last week it is moving fall sports to spring because of the Coronavirus.
The decision was voted on by superintendents and administrators of member schools, which also includes Ashwaubenon, Bay Port, De Pere, Green Bay’s Preble, Southwest and Notre Dame, Manitowoc Lincoln and Pulaski.
“The decision by the superintendents for the FRCC was certainly not the route we were hoping to go, including them,” South athletic director Chris Hein said. “But I just don’t think that many of us, or most of us at this time, didn’t feel like we could offer the sports safely with the information we currently have. “We know it’s devastating for our kids. It’s devastating for a lot of parents. It’s devastating for a lot of us. But at the end of the day, we feel like it’s the best decision we can make right now for our kids and our families. And it’s not ideal. There’s no win for anybody on either side of this. So we’re just trying to do the best we can.”
Sheboygan Area School District superintendent Seth Harvatine says there have been a lot of tough decisions regarding the pandemic, but safety of students, coaches and staff is always the focus – whether on the field or in the school.
“I really felt strong that there was not a way to assure safety for all of our students and our coaches, so I voted, I agreed, that we needed to move the fall schedule to spring,” he said.
As a result, the girls swim team will have to wait until Feb. 15 for the first day of practice and girls volleyball players will start the week after.
Football and girls tennis will get underway March 8, followed by cross country (15th), boys soccer (22nd) and girls golf (29th).
Spring sports – baseball, boys golf, girls softball, soccer, boys tennis and track and field – will start no sooner than April 19.
“I know they’ve put a lot of work into this to try to make the best out of a difficult situation,” Hein said. “And there’s definitely going to be challenges but I think the hope is for the schools that are choosing to move into the spring, the experience the kids will get in the spring will be a better experience than if we tried to do it right now in the fall. There’s just so many unanswered questions right now.”
Some of the questions have been asked by athletes and their parents.
For example, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association recently decided to push back the start date for all fall sports – but four of them held their first day of practice on Monday. The three others begin on Sept. 7.
North and South cannot play sports in the fall, but Sheboygan’s Christian and Lutheran – members of the Big East Conference – can.
“I think the ADs and the WIAA and school superintendents have been living in this COVID mitigation world for the last five to six months, and I think I can say that nobody has all the answers,” Hein said. “So all we can do is what we think is best for our kids, given the information we have at this time.
“Some schools and districts are choosing to move forward and we certainly don’t judge them at all. They’re obviously also doing what they think is best for their kids. This is just the difficult decision our conference made.
“It doesn’t mean that one side is right or one side is wrong. The decision makers in these districts are trying to do what they think is best for their kids with the information they have. And the difficult part is in every facet of our society, this is new. We don’t know a whole lot. We’re learning more everyday, but we don’t know a whole lot about this virus.”
Others wonder why sports like cross country, tennis, golf or swimming cannot be held after they were deemed ‘low-risk’ by the WIAA.
Harvatine ran cross country at Manitowoc Lutheran and says there is nothing more he would like to see than Golden Raiders and Redwings competing in a race like other schools around the state can beginning on Tuesday.
But Harvatine mentions things like group starts, athletes sweating and often times spitting, finishing the race where runners often get bunched up and fall, trip, collapse or are touching one another at time, are too hard to overcome.
“Even in a sport like cross country – I’m proud to be a former runner – I know full well the ability to stay six feet away and social distance just isn’t going to occur,” Harvatine said. “And likewise, trying to transport a team on a bus when we’re talking about reduced bus capacity and limited space on a bus for a school day, we’d have to follow the same guidelines and it’s just not logistical to do that.”
What others also have a hard time accepting is winter sports like hockey, gymnastics and girls basketball start Nov. 16. Wrestling, boys basketball and boys swimming is seven days later.
What is going to change in three months?
“Here’s what I would hope would change,” Harvatine said, “is that we’re very clear from the science that appropriate masking, social distancing, proper hygiene, staying out of situations where you’re in large groups, staying home if you’re sick, isolating yourself if you’ve been around others that have, that if we can all come together and do those things, then we can put this to an end sooner rather than later.”