The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) met on January 8, 2021 and reached the decision to cancel winter sports with a 5-4 vote. This decision was largely due to recommendation from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) to cancel winter sports which was given on January 7. Another influence was the heightened numbers of Coronavirus hospitalizations in Arizona.
The cancellation of winter sports had a dramatic impact on student athletes. Junior JV wrestler Cade Koeller said, “[The cancellation of winter sports] was heartbreaking when it happened, but I can’t honestly say that I didn’t see something like this coming.”
This controversial decision received major backlash from student athletes and families. This opposition eventually grew to the point of an online petition on MoveOn.org which demanded that the AIA do a mandatory re-vote on the issue of winter sports and circulated the internet until it eventually picked up over 43,000 signatures.
In light of this response, the AIA met again on Tuesday, January 18 to re-vote on the cancellation of winter sports. In a 5-4 vote, it was decided that they would overturn their previous decision and reinstate winter sports. Practices for the winter sports season, including girls soccer, boys soccer, girls basketball, boys basketball, and wrestling officially began on January 18.
Corona will be ensuring the safety of their winter sports athletes by implementing safety guidelines for their season. According to Neil MacDonald, boys basketball head coach, “Players and anyone entering the gym will be temperature checked and complete a COVID screening questionnaire. Everyone in the gym will be required to wear masks, including players while playing, with no exceptions. Only two Parents/Guardians per player from the home team can attend. No visitor fans.”
This reinstatement has made a substantial impact on the lives of those who will be playing winter sports this year.
“I am most excited about just getting to do my sport at all,” Koeller said. “I originally thought I wasn’t going to have a season, so I might as well make the best out of it.”
Student athletes are not alone in their excitement to resume sports. Coaches share in this enthusiasm to give their athletes the opportunity to play.
“We are happy for our players, especially our seniors. They have been working hard, and remained patient during this entire time,” said MacDonald. “Hopefully, all of the hard work and attention to detail regarding safety will pay off.”