SDHSAA says winter prep sports will start on time, ‘highly recommends’ wearing masks, limiting attendance
PIERRE -- The South Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors did not vote Tuesday to change the date that winter sports competition can begin, meaning meets and games can start within the next week.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to have our season,” SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos said. “If it kind of got interpreted as we’re looking to cancel the season, that’s not the case. We’re going to have our season. We’re going to have our championships, barring something going very wrong in the next couple of months.”
The SDHSAA Board voted on Nov. 4 to start winter sports and activities on time. Some sports have already started practice, including gymnastics on Nov. 2 and wrestling on Nov. 16. Those two sports are scheduled to begin competition as early as Monday, Nov. 30, with Thursday, Dec. 3 as the first allowable date for games in girls basketball.
During the regular season, the SDHSAA is letting schools handle attendance and mask requirements. It did pass a motion that “highly recommends” schools to require masks at sporting events and limiting attendance for the rest of the season.
The SDHSAA expects to continue requiring masks at state events, just like during the fall championships. It noted how much it learned from the football state championships to help it be more proactive and use positive reinforcement to encourage fans to wear masks during the volleyball state tournaments. The SDHSAA won’t take people out of the stands if they don’t wear a mask, though.
“I know many schools have said it’s hard to enforce and are they going to go up in the stands?” board member and Dakota Valley superintendent Jerry Rasmussen said. “I know I’ve seen it at state events where we’ve absolutely asked and it’s an event required by the facilities, and there’s still people that didn’t participate in wearing a mask.”
SDHSAA supportive of tribal schools having spring league
The SDHSAA Board of Directors unanimously passed a motion that allows tribal schools that can’t participate in volleyball, wrestling and basketball to work with the SDHSAA to develop a spring league not affiliated with the SDHSAA. It would be a one-year exception, as the SDHSAA would waive out-of-season rules for coaches.
Swartos suggested a Feb. 1 deadline for schools to opt-out of winter sports. An end date for a spring league would be provided on the Jan. 13 meeting, which could be around the end of the school year in late May or early June.
Students can still transfer to a different school, or if they choose not to participate this year, can potentially use a hardship waiver for an extra year. Tribal schools are facing different challenges, as they’re not able to participate due to reservation policies with COVID-19.
“With our students working online, it’s not the same level of education,” Little Wound Superintendent Charles Cuny said. “For some families, they might choose a fifth year. I think it needs to be taken into consideration. The difference with our students is they were not allowed to participate based on tribal law.”
Swartos and Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand both mentioned it’d be easier to take fifth-year hardships on a case-by-case basis, rather than a blanket waiver. Swartos mentioned a blanket waiver could lead to unintended consequences. This would only apply to seniors who don’t participate in a potential spring league.
“I think the request is a blanket waiver for any student that wishes to use it. From our office standpoint, it would be pretty difficult to justify on our end,” Swartos said. “Our fear is it opens up a can of worms. If the board wants to look more into the hardship process and take these cases individually through a hardship, I think the board could do that.”