Verona Football - 2019 Practice - Cole Zoromski

Verona’s Cole Zoromski (right) makes a block during a kickoff drill on the first day of practice last August. The WIAA released recommendations for the resumption of summertime athletic activities on July 1.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association released guidance and recommendations for high schools across the state to resume summertime athletic activities that began July 1.

The guidelines were produced and reviewed by the collaborative efforts and contributions of the doctors on the WIAA Sports Medical Advisory Committee, the WIAA Executive Staff, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Department of Public Instruction and the office of Gov. Tony Evers.

The WIAA postponed all athletic participation following Evers’ executive order on March 13 that closed all public and private schools on March 18. A month later, the WIAA Board of Control voted to cancel the 2020 spring sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Within what has been a rapidly changing and evolving environment, we’ve done our best to research, examine and assemble the best advice we could identify,” WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson said in a June 18 release obtained by the Star. “This mission and responsibility is larger than just sports.”

Each individual school’s district administrator has the authority to decide if athletic activities may resume in compliance with local and state health department directives.

The guidelines address the resumption of summer training programs, team practices, competitions, transportation to and from events, disinfection of facilities and equipment and social distancing requirements. Any athletic activity must be voluntary and may not be mandated or applied toward team or program selection.

“Prioritizing the health and safety of all students and staff must remain the focus of each WIAA member school,” the release stated. “The WIAA believes it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of student-athletes in grades 6-12 to return to organized physical activity and build team relationships with their peers and coaches.”

School administrators must provide supervision at competitions to make sure WIAA and health department guidelines are followed.

“This will likely remain in place until a cure, vaccine or very effective treatment is readily available, or so-called ‘herd immunity’ is confidently reached,” the document stated.

Any athlete with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher is required to stay home, as is anyone with one or more of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection. All athletes and coaches should have their temperature checked prior to an event.

The WIAA also recommended schools designate a coach to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns.

Athletes are encouraged to wear face coverings or masks and must be allowed to do so if they wish, even during competitions. Each athlete is required to bring his/her own water bottle and not share it with others. Hydration stations may not be used.

Athletes, coaches and officials are required to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces. Any type of handshake or similar contact should not be allowed.

Adequate cleaning and disinfection schedules should be created and implemented for all athletic facilities. Prior to an individual or group entering a facility, hard surfaces within that facility should be cleaned and disinfected. Balls, equipment and other frequently used items and surfaces should be disinfected at least daily, but between uses when possible.

Weight training equipment should be wiped down with disinfectant before and after use. Benches and other athletic pads having holes with exposed foam should be covered.

The WIAA also recommended coaches modify practices so athletes work in small groups that remain together. On teams with large rosters, like football, coaches are asked to consider holding multiple practice sessions to keep groups small. Nonessential visitors, spectators and volunteers should be limited, and travel outside the local community should be severely limited.

All teams should also have a heat acclimatization program in place. The program should include proper hydration, a slow progression in activity level, adjustments to workouts as heat and humidity increase and close monitoring and a prompt response to developing problems.