Your Move, AIA

The California Interscholastic Federation took their high school sports chips and pushed every single one of them to the center of the table Monday morning with regards to the upcoming sports seasons.

Locally, the AIA has said they will look at what other states are deciding when it comes to Arizona’s situation and one has to wonder if California’s unprecedented move may be the domino which needed to fall for the AIA to play the same hand as the CIF.

Let’s just lay out some of the different scenarios, advantages, as well as possible pitfalls, if fall sports are played in the fall (at some point) or get pushed back to the late winter (think early December) or to the spring like our neighboring state to the west.

If football is played this fall, how does that impact the Tucson public high schools who haven’t had one single in-person workout in 2020? 

I don’t think it’s feasible for schools to re-open and every team in the Old Pueblo, outside of private schools Salpointe Catholic and Pusch Ridge High School, to be asked to be ready to play a slate of games with potentially just a few weeks to train and prepare.

“We need to consider the safety of our students but if we were to start then, we would have to be smart on how we do things,” Cienega head coach Patrick Nugent said to Sports360AZ.com referring to the possible fall start as has been discussed. “As for most of us in southern Arizona, we believe a switch in seasons or a much later start would be best for us.”

One southern Arizona high school player said it’s hard to gauge, due to the pandemic, which players have been able to stay in shape since most haven’t seen one another in quarantine. A spring season, paired with gyms and other workout facilities ideally re-opening in the coming months, would allow players the opportunity to regain their strength and endurance and, hopefully, greatly reduce the risk of injury once the season does start.

How about Arizona athletes considering moving out of state if their season is pushed back or seniors not playing their final prep season as we’re already seeing in California?

I spoke to one top 2021 Arizona high school football commit who said he wouldn’t play his senior season if football is bumped back past the late fall. For many of the elite 2021’s, they’ve been preparing to graduate in December so there’s even less motivation for them to stay and play out their senior year.

As for AZHS football players jumping to another state to play, that may make sense…or maybe it doesn’t.

Is the grass really greener on the other side? 

Potentially, but packing up and relocating an entire family to another state all so your child can play a season or two of sports in hopes of getting a scholarship seems like a pretty “heavy lifting” process when you consider the stresses, expenses and unexpected twists of re-locating.

There’s also no guarantee a new school out of state will produce offers for your kid, much less keep your family happy after uprooting them from Arizona.

Sure, every family and situation is different but change isn’t always for the better.

Then there’s this for AIA Executive Director David Hines to consider.

In an age where it’s common to see resistance between high school and club coaches, are we headed for an all out Tug of war for athletes if seasons, particularly basketball, compete (yes, I said compete) against one another?

“Our coaches and administrators got together and brought up all those scenarios,” Pinnacle head basketball coach Charlie Wilde explained to Sports360AZ.com. “The AIA has to think about that stuff if they decide to move it. Are they going to have the same rules? Are they not going to have the same rules? You’re going to have kids picking and choosing.”

“Some will stay, some will leave – it will just depend. But it could be a battle, yes.”

Wilde noted the club teams, with simultaneous seasons, will most likely take a hit from a talent perspective “unless they get them all to go.”

Perry head coach Sammy Duane, without getting too far ahead of the situation, seems to think there would be loyalty to their high school team.

“We are very much in unprecedented times,” he said. “Their are kids that will want their high school experience and the benefits of that experience. Everyone involved would need to keep in mind to be flexible for the student-athletes sake.”  

From an injury and overuse perspective, this could be an issue not only in the present but the future, as well. These kid’s (remember, they are kids) need a mental and physical break. If the sports calendar returns to “normal” a year from now, it will be a quick turn around for returning athletes would could be playing well into next June.

For now, the AIA is still examining their hand and considering their bet.

Let’s just hope, for the safety of everyone involved, their move pays off.