Arizona Interscholastic Association cancels winter sports season

The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced on Jan. 8 that the winter sports season for student-athletes in Arizona has been canceled.

The decision comes after the AIA postponed the winter sports season in November due to rising coronavirus cases in the state.

The announcement comes on the same day that the state department of health services reported 11,658 additional cases and 197 deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 596,251 cases and 9,938 deaths.

In a statement, AIA officials say the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, along with Arizona having the nation's highest rate of COVID-related hospitalizations, contributed to this decision.

"This week, 93% of all Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and 92% of all inpatient beds are in use, leaving concern that injured students may be unable to receive needed care due to a lack of beds or available medical professionals," read a portion of the statement.

AIA officials say unlike college-level sports, there is no mechanism or system that would support daily-COVID-19 testing for the 30,000 high school students who take part in winter sports. They also say on the college level, 50% of all plays have been cancelled as a result of daily testing of their student-athletes.

Officials went on to say that the start of spring sports, which is scheduled for Mar. 1, will be dependent on statewide COVID-19 metrics improving and further evaluation by the AIA.

Parents, students respond to season cancellation

Some parents are students are displeased with AIA's decision.

"I’m over it. I’m absolutely over it, and I think other parents feel the same way," said Cindy West, whose son is a freshman at Queen Creek Unified School District. "I feel like it was kind of a secret meeting, that they didn’t involve parents or anything in, and cancelled the season for the kids. I think they missed out on a lot already, and they’re being impacted more than any other group, as far as what’s being taken away from them, and they are the least affected by COVID."

Best's son, she said, has been practicing with his basketball team for the now-cancelled season over the past eight weeks.

"Being on an basketball team and having those kids around him, it gives him a sense of community and camaraderie and some life accountability, and not just the sport, but being accountable to his teammates and his coaches, and to be practicing, getting up Saturday morning and practicing after school," said Best. "All of these hard work, things that he’s put in, and then today, a group of five people said nope, you’re done. You don’t get to play. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been working for."

Some students may have a couple more seasons ahead in their career, but that's not the case for seniors. For them, the now-cancelled winter sports season was their last season.

"It is our last year of high school. Like, it’s so important to us," said Andre Panzera, a senior at Pinnacle High School. "Extracurriculars are all I have left, because online has been taken away from us already, and we aren’t going to have prom, a graduation. This was our last chance to make it work."

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
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  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
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  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

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