High school sports practice resumed in some capacity across Kentucky in June, but there still are plenty of questions as to what the future holds. Most of these questions regard what the 2020 fall season could look like later this year in the era of COVID-19.
Kentucky High School Athletic Association Commissioner Julian Tackett provided some updates and answered some questions virtually Tuesday. The commissioner spoke during a meeting of the state’s Interim Joint Commission on Education in the morning. Tackett also spoke in the afternoon during a meeting of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Superintendents Webcast.
During the morning meeting, Tackett stressed the importance of high school sports in keeping students involved and motivated while also addressing the concerns over participation in these activities.
“We realize that we’re walking a tightrope here. There’s obviously perceived and likely real risks of participation in extracurricular athletics. But we also in very many communities the No. 1 dropout tool that you have,” Tackett said during the meeting. “There are people in our communities that every one of you know would not be participating if there was not an athletics or activities opportunity. We’re trying to walk that tightrope delicately.”
Tackett also discussed the stages of the KHSAA’s resumption plan and said there will be a Board of Control meeting to get a better idea of what the next few weeks of July will look like. Tackett and the Board of Control plans to make sure high school sports do not have an effect on the plan to start the school year.
This included having some districts suspend the restart of activities, which Tackett explained was part of how the plan was designed to address issues at the local level first.
With this plan in mind, Tackett reiterated the KHSAA still plans to move forward with the upcoming sports season.
“We are looking at having fall sports, without doubt. We are still planning for fall sports,” Tackett said. “What that looks like could change, just like the data related to the virus changes. We are more optimistic now than perhaps a few weeks ago when we see what the states of Illinois, Indiana, other neighbors have been able to do.”
In regard to neighboring states, one of the questions addressed to Tackett was the prospect of out-of-state travel for teams with these games on their schedules.
“You’re dealing with contracts that are signed by each individual school, but I think the guidance that we are working toward and going to try to get some feedback from our board, would state that those need to be reaffirmed by the local Board of Education if they’re gonna be played,” Tackett said regarding out-of-state team travel. “We want that responsibility perhaps above the coach level who made that decision. Certainly there are certain states that should be off-limits. But I also know that past directives to try to restrict out-of-state travel have not found themselves well in the judiciary.”
Another question raised the concern levels over various sports.
Non-contact sports such as golf and tennis were said to be more easily adaptable. Contact sports presented more of a challenge. Regarding football and basketball specifically, Tackett brought up which sport currently is understood to pose more of an issue.
“Interestingly, right now as we look forward to basketball, it’s actually, according to, the sports medicine folks, it’s more dangerous than football,” Tackett said. “That would surprise a lot of people but they’re talking about vulnerability to the disease because it’s played inside. The ventilation, how long we practice, how long we play, there’s gonna have to be some areas addressed there.”
Regarding a question on the prospect of moving some higher-contact sports such as football or soccer to the spring and some less-contact sports such as baseball and tennis to the fall, Tackett said this has yet to be something formally discussed by the board, but could be moving forward. This included potentially being discussed at Friday’s meeting.
“Without question, everything has to be on the table and everything is on the table,” Tackett said. “Right now, we have an open opportunity for everyone to get involved, get back out of the house, get in shape as students and be checked for their physical and mental fitness. It doesn’t have to be today that we define what’s being played because frankly the virus keeps changing all around the country.”