TOPEKA — The Kansas State High School Activities Association will allow high school football, basketball and volleyball coaches to begin “voluntary summer programs,” starting June 1.
The rationale behind Friday's motion is student-athletes may not have been able to train on a regular basis during the spring because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
However, June 1 is not necessarily the starting point for all Kansas schools.
KSHSAA is mandating schools follow the orders of their local health authorities and local school districts to determine when it is safe to resume group gatherings.
For areas with fewer cases of the virus, the June 1 date is realistic, as those school boards and health officials might be able to relax social distancing measures faster.
Other schools in areas with growing case numbers might have to wait until after the June 1 date.
Multiple coaches expressed concern during the meeting, which was conducted via Zoom, as to whether schools, and specifically football teams, could gain unfair advantages when it comes to summer preparations heading into the fall season.
In order to comply with KSHSAA regulations, high school football programs will need to follow certain procedures throughout the summer.
Teams must start with three weeks of practices focusing on strength and conditioning, with no outside competition permitted. Following the three weeks, teams will be allowed to participate in activities such as 7-on-7 competitions through Aug. 3.
Starting Aug. 3, coaches can begin holding team camps as they prepare for the regular season.
The mandated conditioning periods will need to be followed whether teams are allowed to begin summer activities on June 1 or July 1, meaning some schools, conceivably, could get more time to spend on football-specific activities than others.
“My concern is we could have an area of the state whose local health community does not open up and approve this, while other areas do,” Oswego’s Rob Schneeberger said during the meeting. “We could have an imbalance in what’s being done across the state.”
KSHSAA executive director Bill Faflick countered the argument by saying it was unfair to make students wait any longer in areas that are not as affected by the virus.
“As a staff, we’d love to be able to say it’s go-time across the state,” Faflick said. “But the reality is that if we wait on every county and every local health department to weigh in on this. We might not have a summer at all. We might not even start in the fall.”
Faflick was quick to point out that if teams are unable to open camps in time for adequate preparation for the season, the organization would consider releasing teams from playing contracts without penalty.
“That seems like a reasonable response to me,” Faflick said. “We don’t want it to be an excuse not to play a really good team. We’re aware of that and there need to be some minimums, and if we go through this process and find we’re starting in August and only have half our schools are ready to participate, we may need to delay the start and provide additional practice time prior to kicking off any activities.”
• The board eliminated the summer moratorium week. Coaches will be allowed to stay in contact with athletes and host activities during the former moratorium period.
• Schools will be allowed to determine academic eligibility standards for students competing in fall sports rather than adhering to the KSHSAA academic standards. The change is due to the belief that students have been disadvantaged because of the pandemic and thus have a lower likelihood of achieving their “academic potential,” according to the meeting addendum.
• The board passed motions relating to mandatory physical examinations for players, changing transfer ineligibility dates, eliminating the summer moratorium and scholarship requirements.
• Athletes still will be required to undergo a physical examination before entering a fall sport between May 1 and the first practice of the athlete’s sport. However, the topic will be reevaluated in the first week of June.
• Students who transferred schools this year will fall under the 18-week ineligibility period instead of the one-year ineligibility period set to be implemented during the 2020-21 school year.