The 2020-21 school year will look very different for Grays Harbor College athletics after the Northwest Athletic Conference announced major schedule changes.
The NWAC Executive Board last week approved “a plan to move the majority of fall sports to winter and spring quarters,” and released Return-to-Play Guidelines outlining health and safety recommendations for its member schools, one of which is Grays Harbor College.
Grays Harbor College will see its women’s soccer and volleyball teams pushed back from the fall to later in the school year. The Chokers wrestling team will also start at a later date, according to Grays Harbor Athletic Director Will Rider, who addressed the recent NWAC announcement in a blog post earlier this week.
The plan limits the fall collegiate sports schedule to cross country and golf with other sports moving to winter and spring. All sports for the entire school year will be playing under a reduced schedule, according to a press release from the NWAC.
“We have been thoughtful, comprehensive, flexible and listened to our constituents. It is time to move forward,” NWAC Executive Director Marco Azurdia said. “The plan pushed the conversations with our member college administrators, thus leading to the Executive Board’s decision. We have said from the beginning that flexibility, creativity, adaptability and patience are essential to the success of our return to play.”
The NWAC states it will continue to follow the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local and state health agencies, and member college presidents” and will look to update their strategies as additional information becomes available.
A four-phase approach has been adopted by the NWAC for its members schools. The four-phases — Grey, Red, Yellow and Green — include limited group (less than 10) and modified team practices before an athletic program is given the all clear for full practices and scheduled contests.
“The ‘new normal’ has become a completely different environment from what we once knew and in which we have had to currently learn to function and operate,” Rider said in his blog post. “That is also true in the area of athletics and the direction that programs across the country have had to take in the past few months as we begin to create our ‘Return to Play’ protocols for the coming Fall and Winter quarters.”
With the threat of a possible second-wave coronavirus outbreak in the fall, Rider expects further changes may come.
“Depending upon the seriousness of the second wave of COVID-19 that is anticipated this November and December, spectator restrictions will probably have to be put into place, especially for our inside sports of basketball and volleyball, which will have to be viewed via live-stream media on-line,” he said. “Those details will be passed along as we move closer to those opening dates but it will prove to be a very busy time once all events are actively engaged at the same time.”
Rider also offered that schedules are currently being constructed and administrators and officials are working together “so that a smooth and efficient sports calendar can be created.”