By Tom Mauldin 1/4/2021
The calendar just turned to 2021, but — unfortunately — it feels a lot like 2020.
It certainly has that "the more things change, the more they stay the same" feeling.
We're all ready for some form of normalcy, but as the numbers of coronavirus patients increase at a rapid pace and a vaccine distribution to most is still months away, state, college conferences and athletic associations have already begun trimming and canceling play dates as uncertainty continues to prevail in daily life.
Consider these following events:
The Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Executive Board opted to delay the start of athletic seasons to Feb. 1 and shorten each WIAA Season to seven weeks.
That change moves softball to end beyond the school calendar in many areas with practices beginning on April 26 and concluding on June 12.
The Oregon Schools Activities Association (OSAA) has pushed back the beginning of any sports competition until at least February. Softball, which was scheduled to begin in late April, will now begin in early April with a six-week season.
The return to high school athletics in both states were to begin Dec. 28 with practices for the winter season sports.
And with Coronavirus surges expected following Christmas and New Year holidays, don’t be surprised if more revisions make news in this new calendar year.
“The Executive Board is another reminder of the impact the pandemic has had on Oregon students and schools,” OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said in a press release. “While disappointed that we need to adjust our original schedule, we believe that keeping three distinct seasons, albeit in shortened seasons, maintains potential opportunities for all students moving forward.”
In Oregon, the virus has forced conferences to realign due to travel concerns, as well as budget necessities. Three and four-hour bus trips in a bus full of students isn’t feasible due to covid concerns.
As an example, a dozen central Oregon schools ranging from 1A to 6A could find themselves in the same conference this spring.
The impact isn’t just on prep athletes.
Many college conferences have canceled seasons or delayed the start to 2021 competitions. Most will feature modified schedules. In some states, quite possibly for some Oregon and Washington colleges, home games may need to be played in out of state.
Recruiting has been limited by association rulings (NCAA D1 extended no recruiting until April 15), lowered budgets, school restrictions or lack of events.
Major college preseason softball tournaments like the 2021 St. Pete/Clearwater Invitational and Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic have been cancelled, and the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) League announced that its entire season was over before it started.
After postponing all fall and winter competitions, the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) announced that winter term will resume competition March 1, 2021. The resumption of competition is dependent on the decision of each member college to participate and on the approval of state and local health authorities.
All competition will end no later than June 15, 2021 and there will be NWAC Championships.
NWAC Executive Director Marco Azurdia said the decision was reached in order to keep "our student-athletes by keeping them engaged, academically and physically. There is no perfect answer to this difficult and challenging situation we face. But as a conference we wish to support the total development of our student-athletes."
Fastpitch Northwest director Mike Brooks said his organization was planning “things as usual” around state athletic calendars.
“We plan on starting PECs (Prospect Evaluation Camps) in June and run them through July with our College Exposure Tournament slated to be held in Centrailia (WA) in August.”
Like many, Brooks spent 2020 re-arranging and re-scheduling almost weekly due to Covid. Nearly two dozen PECs had been planned, a half-dozen were held. The tournament, which is normally a three-day event in Centrailia, became a two-day event in Keizer, OR.
“The fact that we pulled it off is a credit to everyone involved in Fastpitch Northwest and the parents and players who support it,” said Brooks.
College presidents, athletic directors and coaches have one collective viewpoint: We all get the picture as we are surrounded by the virus. We all are frustrated not knowing what the next round of bad news will be. But if the past nine months has taught us anything, we have learned that there are some things that are simply beyond our control. That sometimes things are just “unfair” and without rationale.
The old saying, "the more things change, the more they stay the same" is ringing all too loudly.
Be positive and be involved...as best as you can.