Case in Point

Students, teams, families and fans adapt as guidance world turns

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Couple of things recently with regard to new COVID-19 related regulations that had me scratching my head a bit.

The first was a few weeks ago when, seemingly in the middle of the night, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds decided to open the state back up with regard to sporting events and extra-curricular activities.

The press release said, "Spectator limits for sporting and recreational gatherings, including for high school-sponsored events, was lifted Friday, Jan. 8."

Sure enough, that Friday ticket restrictions were lifted at both Wilton and Durant schools.

I'll admit that I felt other schools in the area and within our conference — the River Valley Conference — would follow suit.

Only one other school opened up — Tipton. Last I saw, only three of the 14 schools have opened their gyms back up to unlimited spectators, Wilton and Durant included.

I remember running into Wilton Superintendent Joe Burnett that night at Wilton, where I jokingly said to him, "I didn't know COVID-19 was over."

It certainly isn't. Starting around November, numbers in our area really began surging. Then we began worrying about the holidays and what that would mean for the rampant spread of the virus. It's been nice to see the numbers slow in January.

And while those first few home basketball games were crowded, I'd like to think that things have come back down to earth a bit with regard to huge crowds. I also feel that families are doing their best to sit together without invading the space of others. This is hard to do, and nearly impossible for schools to police, but I do think it's working better than I expected.

Our schools have made it clear with their policies that they will follow whatever the governor puts in place. Right, wrong or indifferent, that's where we are. It has to have meant less headaches for area families of students on sports teams, and even those in local plays, a few of which have still occurred amid the pandemic.

I'll admit I'm sometimes in my own bubble with going to these events without the rigors of the ticketing process.

Continue to be vigilant, and stay safe out there!

The second thing that occurred in early January was the decision by our athletic unions to allow student-athletes who have failed courses to still be eligible for competition. I don't like being in the business of thinking for entities like that, however I feel it likely has a lot to do with all the different learning models going on right now across the state, probably resulting in more failing grades, and students who need help yet it's harder to get given logistics.

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that if you're failing, you shouldn't be allowed to play. The schools will still give the "Fs," it just won't keep athletes off the courts/mats. Another head scratcher for me.

Lastly, I'd urge all our readers to begin following the weekly columns submitted by our area elected officials — Rep. Bobby Kaufmann and Sen. Zach Wahls. Both are tackling the new voucher program being pushed through the Iowa Legislature. Regardless of what side they are on, both will be able to provide much better analysis than I. Yet I'm left wondering what that will mean for student-athletes who may be eyeing attending private schools with sports first on the mind.

I'm not the only one, as the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union released the following statement on SF 159 Section 53:

The Board of Directors of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union believes that educationally-based athletics are an important component of the educational experience. Being part of a team provides many benefits for all participants, including the development of life skills, regardless of the competitive success of that team.

The proposals currently pending in the Iowa Legislature to revise Iowa Code § 282.18(11) raise concerns for our member schools. We oppose the elimination of current provisions and believe that any changes to transfer rules should be subject to thorough review, with proposed revisions given deliberate consideration.

The question of which school a student may attend is distinct from that student’s eligibility to compete in extra-curricular activities at that school. The IGHSAU exists for the mutual benefit of its member schools and the students they serve. It governs competition for the benefit of member schools. The current proposal would severely limit the ability of the IGHSAU to carry out this mission.

High school sports create a sense of community and serve to unify our students, parents and communities. Our programs are centered around teams, not individuals. If individuals become “free agents," as this legislation would allow, many of these benefits will be lost.

To preserve the community-based nature of high school athletics, we must preserve the ability to regulate eligibility.

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