The Ladysmith School Board heard a report Aug. 19 on the upcoming school sports seasons and what student athletes and fans can expect when play resumes this fall.
Participating in three different conferences in the fall season adds to the scheduling complexity, the board was told.
Virtual meetings with school athletic directors from Heart O’North and Lakeland conferences were held recently.
“There was a lot of information to be covered,” said Athletic Director Troy Gago, adding most Ladysmith teams participate in the Heart O’North. “We looked at what fall sports will look like more in depth. At this time all the Heart O’North [schools] are planning on playing their fall sports in the fall seasons.”
In the Lakeland Conference, where Ladysmith will play football this fall, each athlete will be given six family passes for football games.
“That is it for spectators for each team. We will be monitoring those at the door, and they will look like conference type pass, and that is how they will get into games here and on the road,” Gago said. “That is their admission no matter where the game is at.”
For football, athletes will be required to wear some type of mask during games, either a cloth facemask or shield.
“We are looking at several different options for that,” Gago said. “They can go with a plastic shield that will cover the entire facemask and face. Or they can wear a cloth mask under their facemask, but that presents different challenges. The WIAA has said there will be no neck gaiters in football because that presents a safety hazard.”
In volleyball, athletes are expected to wear a face covering during competition at least through Sept. 28
“The entire time they are in the gym, they should have a mask on,” Gago said.
Attendance restrictions to Heart O’North indoor competitions have yet to be determined, but these decisions will likely be deferred to local and county health officials due to wide range of active COVID-19 cases between areas. For instance, Rusk County has reported 22 total coronavirus cases since the pandemic began compared with 343 in Barron County.
In cross country, athletes must wear face covering at least through the start of the race.
“There will be a 100-meter mark on every cross-country course, and that is when the athletes who have to wear neck gaiters can pull the neck gaiter down if they want to,” Gago said.
A doctor’s excuse will be required for an athlete to not be required to wear a mask.
“Otherwise we expect them to wear masks,” Gago said.
There will be no concessions at Heart O’North Conference athletics under a WIAA recommendation to prevent large-group gathering spots at competitions.
There will be no admission charged at Heart O’North competitions.
“These were the recommendations that were made today,” Gago said. “Some of the schools said they agree to them right now, but they were going to have to talk with their school board because they didn’t feel they were in a position to make all of them.”
Live-streaming games is being strongly encouraged, according to Gago. He told the board the district is looking at what technology is needed to livestream football, and this equipment could easily then livestream baseball and softball.
“We already have the capacity to livestream anything that happens in the gym for basketball and wrestling,” Gago said.
Currently, the district cannot livestream swimming. The current conference recommendation is to allow no fans at swim meets.
Locker rooms will be available, but visiting teams will be encouraged against using these facilities.
“They would prefer all athletes get dressed at their school and then travel to the schools,” Gago said. “For longer drives for instance to Northwestern teams will be allowed to change up there if the school allows it.”
Athletes should wear masks on all bus trips during the entire travel time on the building.
A forfeit due to COVID-19 in Heart O’North will be recorded as a loss.
Due to a shortage of officials there is a possibility of rescheduling some competitions to Saturdays in Heart O’North and Lakeland conferences for football and basketball.
All spectators will be required to wear face coverings in a building.
“If they don’t want to wear a masks the games will most likely be live-streamed or broadcast on the radio,” Gago said. “At least until September 28, fans who are inside the building will be required to wear facial coverings. At outdoor sporting events they will be strongly encouraged [to wear facial coverings] and practice social distancing guidelines.”
Heart O’North has not yet set limits on sports attendance for indoor athletics.
“They are asking each of the schools to work with their administrations, school boards and county health to come up with guidelines. Then send those to whoever you are playing that week ahead of time so they know what the guidelines are at each particular school,” Gago said.
Some schools are projecting no limits on fans, and some are having pretty tight restrictions, according to Gago.
“It is going to be across-the-board,” Gago said.
Gago currently is projecting six basketball games total will be rescheduled to Saturday. Three will be boys, and three will be girls.
Summer sports will run from the end of April to June.
Postseason football play also is being determined with some form of “culminating event” and possibly a regionally based championship. Basketball still could have a championship, but with a shorter season.
“All of this can change. They are doing their best to change, but any of this can change at a moment’s notice. If cases start to spike in any school district, this can look a lot different,” Gago said.
School District Administrator told the board the presentation at the meeting is an update on where conference officials are currently standing on the upcoming sports seasons.
“We are going to have to go with the flow on a daily basis,” Stunkel said.
Conference leaders are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping as much consistency as possible, according to Gago. “They don’t want once school’s fans getting upset at their schools because they aren’t doing it like another school in the conference,” he said.
They are working out the sports season logistics among themselves, according to Stunkel. Canceling an entire sports season, however, would require formal board action, she said.
“Unfortunately we are in three different conferences this fall,” Stunkel said. “Troy is busy keeping up with three different conferences.”