CHSAA's Resocialization Task Force met on Wednesday, and built the foundations of a plan which aims to resume sports and activities during the 2020-21 school year.
The task force was comprised of pediatricians, orthopedists, sports medicine doctors, athletic trainers, superintendents, school administrators, coaches and CHSAA staff.
"I would like to thank the members of the Resocialization Task Force," said CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green. "This was extremely difficult, with diverse opinions and challenges across the state. At the end of the day, everybody in the room was committed to reconnecting sports and activities to the educational platform. So that gave us a common purpose. Getting our kids back to activities that support their social, mental and physical health is our priority.
"If it were easy to come up with these decisions, professional and collegiate sports would already have definitive answers with the amount of resources at their disposal."
The group used a document created by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) as a guideline, and also looked at various other guidance from other states, as well as national-level sport organizations.
They were also informed by a survey of the CHSAA membership, which included more than 900 responses from coaches, athletic directors, district athletics directors, superintendents and principals over the course of 18 hours.
"If that doesn't tell you how important education-based participation is to the state of Colorado, no other data points will," Blanford-Green said.
The task force acknowledged that the goal in returning to play has to include mitigating the risk, as it is not possible to eliminate it entirely.
"As administrators, we have to recognize that we have a role in mitigating risk, and providing a safe environment for resuming athletics and activities," Blanford-Green said. "Those decisions will take time as guidelines become more relaxed, and medical guidance speaks to specific sports.
"We have to stay focused: We are not youth sports, club sports or summer programs," she added. "We have to make decisions aligned with where the resumption of education will be at the start of the 2020-21 school year."
The task force classified CHSAA's 29 sports into three categories: lower risk, moderate risk, and higher risk.
- Boys golf
- Boys tennis
- Girls swimming*
- Girls golf
- Boys swimming*
- Girls tennis
- Unified Bowling
- Sideline Cheer
Note that swimming can only be categorized as lower risk if the CHSAA guidelines (for example, social distancing) for swimming events are met. Otherwise, swimming would be considered a moderate risk sport.
- Cross country
- Field hockey
- Boys soccer
- Boys lacrosse
- Girls lacrosse
- Girls soccer
Note that track and field and gymnastics are considered moderate when considering the sport as a whole, due to the sharing of equipment, surfaces and social distancing.
- Competitive Cheer/Dance
- Ice hockey
The categorization of CHSAA's three activities — music, speech, and student leadership — will continue to be examined as guidance comes forward from various organizations and agencies.
The following definition of these categories comes from the NFHS document:
- Lower Risk: Sports that can be conducted with social distancing or individually with no sharing of equipment or the ability to clean the equipment between use by competitors.
- Moderate Risk: Sports that involve close, sustained contact, but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants OR intermittent close contact OR group sports OR sports that use equipment that can’t be cleaned between participants.
- Higher Risk: Sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants.
The task force recommended that the CHSAA staff explore beginning lower-risk sports at the start of the 2020-21 school year.
"Our goal is to administrate all activities and athletics in 2020-21 school year," Blanford-Green said. "Within that goal, our office and our membership must be willing to think outside the box. The traditional structure of a fall, spring or winter season has to be reexamined as resuming at any level could look different. We have to think about the categorized levels of sports, and the ability to resume them safely. Those must be our bench marks."
For sports categorized as moderate and higher-risk, the task force wants CHSAA to gather definitive interpretations of state guidelines and medical data on when it would be safe to initiate their seasons. At this point, CHSAA is not able to move forward with sports classified as moderate and high-risk. The hope is to be able to find an opportunity to play those sports at some point during the 2020-21 school year.
"This is the first week in June," Blanford-Green said. "We don't want to get in front of the guidelines or medical data that hasn't been clearly interpreted and make rash decisions which could negatively impact sports that could potentially start at some point this fall."
The task force meeting helped to set the foundation and standards for returning to play. Decisions made moving forward will be made with a combination of various resources and experts.
"There were levels of frustration throughout the day. There's no modern-day template for resuming play after a pandemic," Blanford-Green said. "But I feel like we came away with some actionable items, some much-needed definitions, to move to the next steps.
"I can't thank this task force enough for their time, effort and expertise as we navigated through uncharted territory to resocialize sports under diverse guidelines across the state," she added.