Colorado high school sports will look different this winter to fight COVID-19 spread
Colorado’s traditional winter high school sports season — “Season B” on the Colorado High School Activities Association’s coronavirus-modified calendar — will look a lot different than it usually does when practices and competition begin later this month.
No spectators will be allowed, basketball and hockey players will be required to wear masks or other facial coverings during competition, everyone will play fewer games and the opportunities for postseason competition will be reduced.
But the sports will be played, thanks to a variance from statewide public health orders that CHSAA applied for and received from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The state approved the request based on the American Academy of Pediatrics guidance for winter sports, CDPHE director Jill Hunsaker Ryan wrote in the approval letter she shared Thursday with the Coloradoan.
Season B of the Colorado High School Activities Association’s coronavirus-modified calendar allows schools to begin formal practices Jan. 18 and competition Jan. 25 in boys and girls basketball, hockey, skiing, spirit, girls swimming and wrestling. It concludes with postseason competition in March.
Poudre School District will have teams competing in each of those sports this year. Limits on the number of athletes allowed in a gym at a time for informal practices will expand Monday from 10 to 25, he said. Transportation, when provided for road games, will limit the number of people on each bus to a maximum of 25.
Athletes, coaches and officials in all sports will be required to complete daily symptom checks and be symptom-free before participating in any practices or competitions.
Here’s a look at the most-significant COVID-19 modifications for each of those sports:
Basketball (boys and girls)
- Masks or face coverings that completely cover the mouth and nose must be worn at all times, including on the court during play, by athletes, coaches and game officials
- 14-game regular season for varsity teams, 12 game regular-season for sub-varsity teams
- Teams limited to 12 players apiece with maximum of 24 players total allowed in a gym for a game, with up to three coaches and one athletic trainer per team
- Practices limited to a maximum of 25 players in a gym along with up to three coaches and an athletic trainer
- Balls must be disinfected before and after each practice
- Players should dress for practices and competition before arriving at gym. Locker room access limited to maximum of 5 at a time with masks and social-distancing required.
- Masks or face coverings that completely cover the mouth and nose must be worn at all times off the ice by athletes, coaches and officials and by athletes on the ice during play in Larimer and many other counties, McKinstry said.
- 13-game maximum for regular season ending no later than March 11, with only one nonconference game allowed and that game must be played against a team from the same geographic region with approval from the CHSAA assistant commissioner overseeing hockey
- Rosters limited to a maximum of 20 players per team
- Workouts should be conducted in pods to limit exposure if someone contracts COVID-19
- Equipment, including practice jerseys or pinnies and goaltending gear, must be labeled for a specific player and cannot be shared
- Players should dress for practices and competition, minus skates, before arriving at rink. Locker room access limited to maximum of 5 at a time with masks and social-distancing required.
- Players should avoid hand contact with pucks, and home team must provide all pucks for warmup and play during competition
- State tournament will consist of two four-team playoff brackets, one for Class 4A schools and one for Class 5A
- Masks or other facial coverings required at all times except for athletes during a race
- Athletes, coaches and officials expected to remain 6 feet or more from others at all times except while athletes are actively participating in a race
- Activities should be modified to encourage social-distancing and drills should be done in small groups or pods as much as possible to limit contact between skiers
- Nordic skiing starts limited to maximum of 25 athletes in each starting wave
- Alpine ski teams should create school/cohort groupings for chairlift rides and races to limit contact with others
- Teams should provide own shelter, since it is unlikely they will be allowed inside buildings at practice and competition venues
- State championships will be limited to 75 participants per gender per race
- Nordic races at state championship will take place on a day to limit or eliminate overnight stays
- Alpine races at state championship will likely be limited to one run per day
- Masks or other facial coverings must be worn at all time except during competition at the state meet
- Squads of up to 12 will be allowed to cheer on the home team while following social-distancing guidelines as much as possible at Poudre School District basketball games, McKinstry said. No visiting spirit squads will be permitted.
- Teams urged to work in pods or stunt groups to eliminate as much crossover as possible
- No changes to number of teams allowed to enter state competition
Girls swimming and diving
- Masks or other facial coverings must be worn by coaches and officials at all times and by athletes when they are not on the starting block, diving board or in the pool
- 7-meet maximum for regular season, not counting league championship
- No nonconference meets permitted to avoid contact across different regions of the state
- Maximum number of participants allowed indoors during a practice or competition is 50 among all teams
- Only essential personnel (swimmers/divers, coaches, lifeguards, officials, trainers) permitted on pool deck
- No flyover starts. Swimmers from one race must completely exit the pool before swimmers for the next heat can come onto the bulkhead
- Meets can be held virtually with each team competing at its own pool
- Teams should remain on opposite sides of the pool during dual meets and swim in the lanes closest to that side for competition. For example, one team swims in lanes 1-3 in every race and the other swims in lanes 4-6
- State meet reduced to 20 qualifiers per event per classification with no preliminary heats and timed finals
- Masks or other facial coverings must be worn at all times by coaches, officials and by wrestlers except while actually on the mat competing in a bout
- Regular season limited to 20 matches, with no more than four teams in attendance at any one meet
- Mats must be disinfected before and after each meet and each practice session
- Practices limited to maximum of 25 athletes in a gym at any one time
- Practice partners must stay the same for the week
- Drills and activities should be modified as much as possible to allow for social-distancing
- Regional and state meets could be held over multiple days with different weight classes competing on different days
- State bracket reduced to 16 athletes (two from each region)
- State meet will be held at a separate site for each classification, with no wrestlers competing on multiple days
Contact Coloradoan reporter Kelly Lyell at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @KellyLyell and find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KellyLyell.news. Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.