The Deerfield athletic department is creating its own guidelines for returning to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic, following the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s release in mid-June of its summer guidelines.
Deerfield Athletic Director Matt Polzin presented an initial plan about how Deerfield athletes might return to their sports at a July 6 School Board Committee of the Whole meeting.
Polzin said the WIAA released about 45 pages of guidelines for schools to resume play this summer, with coach contact starting July 1.
In addition to those guidelines, Polzin said the school district’s athletic department was creating its own protocols, by sport.
The goal, Polzin said is to make protocols “as specific as possible without going overboard.”
Local schools were hoping to have spring sporting events this summer, but with a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Dane County and subsequent re-tightening of restrictions on gatherings, Polzin said that doesn’t look possible.
Some of the school district’s protocols include closing off locker rooms, limiting practice size, frequent sanitation, social distancing and asking athletes to bring their own water and equipment and to enter school buildings through designated doors.
Polzin said athletes may be kept in pods, practicing in specific groups with small numbers to limit possible exposure. Pods may practice at different times or on different sides of the gym.
For sports like baseball, softball, soccer and football, groups will be capped at 25 athletes. Polzin said balls and equipment will be regularly sanitized, drills will be done with social distancing, and equipment may be rotated in and out of practice to reduce sharing.
While bathrooms will be available for athletes, locker rooms will not, Polzin said.
For indoor sports like basketball and volleyball, maximum group size will be ten athletes plus coaches. Players are encouraged to bring their own balls and stay with the same practice partner for drills involving ball handling.
For track and field, and cross country, group sizes will max out at 25, not counting coaches. Athletes should social distance, Polzin said, and stagger which lanes they use. Ppecific workouts may be done in pods of five to ten athletes, he said.
There are still details that haven’t been nailed down yet, Polzin said.
School board Vice President Lisa Sigurslid asked about providing water to athletes, and questioned whether it was legally allowable to disable water fountains, which Polzin had included in initial plans.
Board members suggested providing cases of bottled water for athletes and discussed ways that athletes could continue to bring their own.
School District Business Manager Doreen Treuden also asked about sanitizing practices for balls and equipment. Polzin said he hopes to coordinate with facilities staff about who would be sanitizing those things and how.
Polzin said that could fall on coaches or custodial staff, depending on cost. He also wasn’t sure if disinfecting wipes or spray would work better.
Treuden replied that a lot of the district’s disinfecting equipment was designed for nonporus surfaces, which wouldn’t work on sports balls, and could wear out equipment.
“This is new,” Polzin said. “We haven’t had to do this before.”
Polzin called it “a good opportunity to see how this goes.”
Deerfield will have a virtual code meeting for student athletes on Wednesday July 22 at 7 p.m. The meeting will be filmed and broadcast on Facebook Premiere on the Deerfield Community Schools page.
Polzin said the athletic department decided to use Facebook Premiere because it didn’t require viewers to have their own Facebook account. The video will stay up on the district’s social media, YouTube channel and website after the meeting is held June 22.
Student athletes must complete a participation form and drop it off to Deerfield Middle-High School office after the code meeting.
Polzin also proposed a temporary athletic codebook change giving students with failing grades from the last quarter in spring 2020 a three-week grace period before receiving suspensions from sports, if fall sports are played this year.
Polzin said if students had failing grades in the spring, and were planning on playing a fall sport, those students would have the first three weeks of the fall quarter to bring grades up and regain eligibility for that sport.
After three weeks, Polzin said, if students didn’t show improvement, they could miss three weeks of games.
The policy is meant to level the playing field for students, if they struggled with distance learning when schools closed mid-March due to COVID-19.
Board member Sandy Fischer called it “a good compromise,” knowing many students may “stress about losing their opportunity to do a fall sport.”
“We don’t know what’s happening in all these households. It just gets complicated,” Fischer said.