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What Will Sports And Activities Look Like This Fall?

Status of Fall Sports and Activities

It’s the 'elephant in the room' among most communities in South Dakota right now – will we see high school sports and activities taking place this coming fall? And if there are sports, will fans be able to attend? To summarize the answer, it’s complicating…

In mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement, and eventual cancellation, of all remaining sanctioned winter and spring sports and activities in the state. Despite the cancellation of many events in recent months, the South Dakota High School Activities Association is gearing up for what they hope will see activities resuming this fall. For starters, schools have been given the green light to resume some of their summer programs for both athletics and fine arts.

“A few weeks ago we put out guidance for summer contact, and that would essentially be for coaches working with kids throughout the summer,” said SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos. “Whether it be in the weight room or whether it be open gyms at their school, individual camps that they have, or potentially going off to team camps and other issues.”

While the state has given its recommendations as to what schools should or should not do, it’s really up to each individual school district to make their own decisions at the present time.

“For our summer contact, all those decisions are made locally. We put out guidelines, we put out documents to help schools form plans in their own communities based on what’s going on there,” explained Swartos. “Once we get towards the fall, then it shifts more back to us, and us making decisions for the entire state.”

In May, the National Federation of State High School Associations released its own set of guidance for resuming sports and activities in the fall. They separated out the various sports and activities based on risk with the current pandemic. While sports like football, cheer and dance, and wrestling are labeled as high risk, other sports are not.

“Most individual sports like golf, cross-country, even tennis to some point, because there’s not much contact that’s involved. Those are a different story than our higher contact sports, particularly in the fall, such as football,” said Swartos. “For the fall, our biggest concerns would be those high-risk activities.”

By this depiction of the situation, it’s entirely possible to have some sports and activities going on, while others may see tighter restrictions or worse.

Another aspect that’s worth noting as well is the power that each school district holds. With football for example, if the high school activities association decides to proceed with a season, a school could remove themselves from participating.

“The school always has the right if they say, ‘we don’t want to participate in football this year,’ to forfeit their contest and not play,” explained Swartos. “Our hope is that we (SDHSAA) can put out guidance that helps schools avoid having to do that. But at the end of the day, the schools have the ultimate decision on whether they want to participate or not.”

This goes back to the question posed earlier, what will sports and activities look like this fall, and will fans be allowed to attend the events? It’s clear at this moment, it’s simply too early to tell – only time will tell.

“It looks a lot different than where we were a month, a month and a half, or two months ago,” Swartos stated. “We want to put on safe events, be it athletics or fine arts activities, but we want to be able to do it safely.”

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.