PUHSD postpones start of winter sports — for second time

With any luck, those playing winter sports in the schools in the Phoenix Union High School District may not have to wear masks during competition.

That’s because the PUHSD just announced that basketball, soccer, and possibly wrestling have been moved back to late spring.  By that time, the mask mandate imposed by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) may be loosened, or even eliminated, depending on the progress of the COVID vaccine roll-out.

The fact that the district is even considering allowing the wrestling season to go ahead is perhaps the upside to the latest news for those athletes affected.  Last month, the PUHSD announced the cancellation of wrestling altogether, citing the fact that the sport is “extremely high-risk for infection spread.”

This kind of indecision has made it especially difficult on the coaches.  After the district’s initial announcement of a delay in starting the winter season, coaches and players were told to prepare for a February start.  The reason at the time was the spread of the COVID virus, which had high metrics in the zip codes throughout the district.

Now the coaches face the challenge of keeping their players motivated and ready for another six weeks.  The latest announcement from district superintendent Chad Gestson suggests that the target months for fitting in the delayed season will be April and May.

For many coaches and players, that just creates more problems.  For example, multi-sport athletes that participate in winter and spring sports will have to choose which sport to play.  And some teams, like soccer, may be without some of their best players because those players may choose to participate in the club programs that run during those months.

The PUHSD includes 10 high schools that will compete against one another.

While it’s welcome news that there will at least be a winter season, the way the situation has been handled by the district has upset more than a few coaches.  If the PUHSD had stuck with their original plan to move the season back and start on Jan. 18, as most of the other districts did, there would have been far less angst.

However, district officials decided it wouldn’t be safe to begin before the spring months.  A statement issued by the district explained its stance: “We remain fully committed to athletics and to offering winter sports as soon as it’s safe to do so.  Unfortunately, we have reached a point in which competitions are just not possible in the coming weeks”

As of now, the district plans to also participate in spring sports, per the usual schedule.

Looks like it’s gonna get pretty crazy during those last couple of months of the school year.