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AIA delays winter athletic season again

The winter sports season has been delayed again because of COVID-19 concerns, with the AIA setting the start date as Jan. 18. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

The winter sports season has been delayed again because of COVID-19 concerns, with the AIA setting the start date as Jan. 18. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Winter athletes will have an extra two weeks get into shape following the announcement by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) to delay the start of the season to Jan. 18.

The AIA adjusted the season start day to support efforts to mitigate COVID-19 hospitalizations and improve the opportunity for a winter season to occur.

“While these modifications were designed to safely allow students to continue to play, there is an increasing concern that 90 percent of the state’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are full,” the AIA said in a press release. “Some are projecting that ICU beds may well exceed 100 percent in upcoming weeks.”

This decision will allow schools to practice for 14 days prior to the start of competition after returning from winter breaks.

In an attempt to keep Arizona high school students in school and able to participate in winter sports, the Arizona Interscholastic Association, in partnership with its member schools and the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), released a series of sport-specific modifications Dec. 2.

“Our focus continues to be on keeping students in school and on the playing field safely. We believe this decision will help us preserve the winter sports season,” said Joe Paddock, associate executive director.

The decision includes the following adjustments:

• The season of competition begins Jan. 18. This date could change if there is a government prohibition or shutdown. The end of the regular season for winter sports will be March 5.

• Conferences will be given the opportunity to decide the total number of weeks of competition, up to the maximum number of weeks allowed by the executive board.

• All modifications to winter sports established Dec. 2 remain in effect: schools are required to follow all modifications.

• The spring athletic season will begin March 1. Conferences will have the opportunity to modify the length of the spring season.

“These measures will allow us to start the season and I hope, that as we see hospitalizations go down, some of the restrictions regarding spectators, be lifted,” said Executive Director David Hines.

The executive board is hearing requests and suggestions from conferences regarding how these modifications may impact spring sports.

The AIA’s primary goal is to maintain in-person learning and avoid further restrictions from another increase in hospitalizations.

Information provided by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

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