Local athletic departments hopeful for fall sports

GILA VALLEY — As August quickly approaches athletic families are eagerly awaiting news from the local schools on the probability of playing high school sports this Fall. I reached out to all of the local area administrators and asked about their respective plans for Fall Sports. Those that answered are posted below.

Eldon Merrell, Duncan Schools Superintendent

“We plan on having sports this Fall.  We will begin practice as soon as the AIA allows.  The difficult part of having sports is going to be what we do when a team has a positive test.  In football, that could mean the loss of two games which at this point for us could be a third of our season.  In addition, if we are not allowed to have in-person instruction, we will not be having sports either.  I can’t see mandating that students stay home while allowing athletes to practice and compete.”

The question you ask is really quite difficult to answer.  For months we have not been able to answer questions about what will be taking place a month from now.  That is the hardest thing to accept right now with schooling and athletics.  The truth of the matter with Fall sports, we will have an answer when it gets here!”

Ryan Conrad, Thatcher High School Principal

“Thanks for reaching out.  I think that we as a state and a nation are in a place nobody imagined we would be at this point with COVID-19.  The virus has been such an enigma and it becomes really hard to make plans with a target that is continually moving.  Thatcher High School is committed to making safety a priority for our students and athletes as we make plans for returning to school this fall.  Our district has maintained close contact with our county health department, state education offices and the AIA throughout this process to assist with decision making.”   

Our coaches and athletes have followed protocols that have been developed by the district and the AIA for summer practices and training.  Our programs are currently adhering to the Phase One protocol of our district policy which aligns with the AIA’s protocol.  Governor Ducey’s most recent Executive Order and the AIA’s announcement that provisional practices for fall sports will begin on August 17th gives us hope that our students will be able to participate in athletics and activities this fall.  We, like everyone else in the state, are hopeful that the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases will continue to decrease allowing our students to return to a sense of normalcy.   Ultimately, we will follow the guidance that local and state leaders have set forth and continue to focus our efforts on controlling the things we can control.”  

Chris Stalder, Willcox High School Athletic Director

“Willcox High School is following all AIA precautions and recommendations regarding Fall Sports.  Practices are allowed to be started on August 17, 2020.  The first scheduled games are set for the week of September 7th, 2020.  The AIA is still working on finalizing any schedules, and will be updating us in the coming weeks.”  

Toni Corona, Safford High School Athletic Director

“We definitely are planning on having Fall athletics at Safford. We will follow all of the advice from the local and state medical personnel as well as the Governor’s office and the AIA. As of right now practices can start August 17th with games starting the week of September 7th. This is a fluid situation and those dates could change.”

GilaValleyCentral has learned that the AIA Executive Board will meet on August 5th to see the results of a survey that that the AIA sent out to all high school administrators to gauge their plans for Fall sports. The Executive Board plans to make a decision on sports on that day.