The Colorado High School Activities Association hosted webinars this week outlining protocols for Season B sports, including basketball, ice hockey, wrestling and girls’ swimming, as approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The four webinars, running about an hour each, outlined some changes and variances ahead of the first day of practice for Season B sports Jan. 18.
Scroll to the bottom of the story for a brief outline of the information presented at each meeting.
Among some of the most contested and questioned variances includes a mask mandate for all basketball players and non-athletes.
The decision was made by the CDPHE, according to CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann, who said during a basketball meeting Monday that there will be no medical exemptions or "mask breaks" during games.
“Regardless of local health rules, the state health department has determined that masks must be worn for all indoor events. The expectation is all schools comply,” said Borgmann, who said coaches and administrators will be responsible for enforcing the mask policy, but officials may take action if needed. “Participating is a privilege not a right. We need to protect the opportunities for all students and all programs. Failure to uphold may result in the removal of an individual or a team from season participation.”
The mask policy includes timeouts, huddles and water breaks. According to Borgmann, athletes will not be permitted to lower their masks to take a drink of water unless they move six feet away from other participants. Huddles and team benches will also be required to remain socially distant.
Borgmann said in Monday’s meeting that CHSAA requested athletes not be required to wear masks if they are on the court, but was denied by CDPHE. Mask breaks were also proposed by CHSAA and denied.
The discussion on masks dominated the hourlong meeting as many coaches questioned the enforcement of the rule, and why wrestling was approved without a mask mandate. Borgmann said the CDPHE was concerned about the constant contact between players on a basketball court.
“The interaction between 10 players provides a lot more opportunity for the spreading of the disease versus contact between two players (like in wrestling),” Borgmann said.
Similarly, ice hockey and girls’ swimming also received a variance from the CDPHE to compete without masks. According to Justin Saylor, the assistant commissioner in charge of ice hockey, said CDPHE will not mandate masks, but teams must adhere to any local health and school district guidelines regarding masks. Per the CDPHE, according to Saylor, masks are required at all practices.
Saylor said he was a bit surprised when CHSAA received the variances from CDPHE to play ice hockey, adding that the sport was the "toughest one" for the health department to debate.
“They brought up a couple specific situations with tournaments, not only in Colorado but around the country where tournaments became super-spreader events for COVID,” Saylor said during the CHSAA ice hockey meeting this week. “So, I’ll be honest, when they approved it I was surprised but very, very happy.”
Saylor also said he believes the sport could face additional limitations from the CDPHE in the future.
Wrestling also had to jump through hoops to receive variances from the state, but is waiting for approval for postseason competition.
Some districts in Colorado, however, did not come to the same conclusion about wrestling as the CDPHE. Tuesday, Boulder County denied variances for wrestling, and Clear Creek School District also reportedly opted out of wrestling in 2021.
Adam Bright, CHSAA assistant commissioner in charge of wrestling, said athletes impacted by their county or districts opting out of the season may join another team per the state statute, which allows athletes to compete in a district of residence, or a neighboring district.