Indiana high school sports a go as scheduled


Despite worries that the COVID-19 pandemic would postpone the start of the fall sports schedule, incoming Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Paul Neidig said Wednesday the games should begin on time.

“As of today,” Neidig said in an interview from his Indianapolis office.

That is true statewide with the exception of schools located in Indianapolis. Those high school are looking at a two-week delay to the start of their seasons, he said.

Football, cross-country, volleyball, golf, tennis and boys and girls soccer are all otherwise scheduled to begin fall season play before the end of August.

The first golf match involving a local team features Seymour High School in Bloomington on Monday.

Indiana closed down high school sports participation in March, and the scheduled spring sports season was canceled.

Word that the head of the IHSAA believes sports will go off safely was a boost to local athletic officials.

“I’m excited,” said Brownstown Central girls cross-country running coach Maria Conklin. “I’m very hopeful now. The kids, most of them are optimistic. To be honest, I hope.”

Hopeful, pending last-minute, unanticipated disruptions, sums up the tentative attitude looking on at the pandemic and its possible direct effect on fall high school sports.

Seymour Athletic Director Kirk Manns said he is glad to hear fall sports are on track to start on time, though he is aware that with the pressure and unpredictability of the pandemic, things can still change.

“I hope it stays that way,” Manns said. “I’m very hopeful and optimistic.

Schools have followed detailed guidelines produced by the IHSAA for the last several weeks that have gradually allowed for more contact between athletes.

Neidig, who officially takes over as commissioner Friday, and others in IHSAA headquarters, have monitored reports on how the phases of implementation have worked and he said, “I am really encouraged.”

There have been selected cases where teams reacted to a positive coronavirus test and halted practice for a time period in accordance with recommendations from local health departments. The Brownstown Central football team faced that problem, though the Braves were able to resume practice. But they have not been common.

“I think it has,” Neidig said of thesuggested protocols working well. “There’s nothing we’re monitoring or dealing with that has not been anticipated. We certainly knew it was not going to be perfect. They’ve put in the protocols.”

Still, the number of COVID-19 cases keeps expanding across the world, United States and Indiana, so although high school teams have successfully social distanced, it is not impossible for a sudden quick outbreak to derail the startup plans for games before next week.

“Everything could change tomorrow,” Neidig said. “Let’s not look too far ahead.”

It is pleasing that things have moved along so smoothly, and Neidig thinks golf opening first is actually a good sport for an early test case.

“It’s outdoors,” Neidig said. “It is easy to social distance. We don’t have to deal with many fans.”

The first scheduled football games for local teams are Aug. 21 with Seymour to meet South Dearborn and Brownstown scheduled to compete against Corydon Central.

Outside of Indianapolis football’s opening day should be “true all around the state,” Neidig said.

Neidig does not expect every school and every game to come off blip-free of coronavirus interference; however, when schools did experience shutdowns due to a positive athlete test, the virus was not spreading from person to person.

It was determined that the individual who first tested positive acquired it elsewhere, perhaps at a family reunion or at a travel sport tournament in another part of the country, Neidig said.

“We have some problems, but it is not because of that,” he said of teammate-to-teammate transmission. “They come back with it. It happened somewhere else. Outside issues brought it in.”

Schools have done a good job of communicating issues to the IHSAA, he said. Parents and supporters do call the office to make opinions known. Some feel strongly no sports should be conducted this fall. Others feel just as strongly the kids should be allowed to play.

“Both ways,” Neidig said. “The feedback I am getting, though, is overwhelmingly the majority of people want to get to their sport. There are some that don’t.”

Manns said of the Owls, “We’re in good shape.” Manns defined good shape as having athletes and the marching band on school grounds practicing without any incidents leading to quarantines or positive tests.

“We’ve had no shutdowns,” he said. “Everything seems to be going good.”

Conklin said it has been an intriguing last several weeks to have athletes training hard, but still wondering if they will be able to run.

“Heck, most of the summer, I didn’t know if we would have a season,” Conklin said.

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