Continuing COVID-19 shutdowns impacting high school sports not just on, but off the field

The current COVID-19 disease outbreak and its response have thrust our state and nation into a period of mass shutdowns of businesses and recreational activities designed to promote social distancing to help stop the spread of the virus. In many states, shutdowns still continue and there is tremendous concern about the impacts on the economy, with many people now calling for the reopening of businesses.

Players from Cedarcrest (wearing black T-shirts) and Archbishop Murphy (wearing red T-shirts) appear together for this photo following last season’s volleyball game between the two schools at Cedarcrest High School in Duvall.  The Red Wolve volleyball program, like many around the state, could face budget challenges this fall as a result of no fundraising this offseason due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. (File, photo courtesy Kristine Nielsen/CHS Volleyball)

While there is grave concern from some about the economic future of Washington state thanks to the extended stay-at-home order by Governor Jay Inslee, an aspect of this that isn’t getting nearly as much attention is how these orders are impacting youth sports, specifically high school sports and their outside fundraising. With the orders forcing postponement or outright cancellation of camps, fundraising activities and out-of-season club play in all sports, Valley high school sports programs – and virtually every other high school sports program in Washington – are facing serious changes for this coming season, changes which could negatively affect athletes and their communities.

Cedarcrest High School’s volleyball program, like many others at the school, every summer hosts a camp for young athletes. According to coach Kristine Nielsen, that camp has not yet been announced – she described it as postponed, but in any event, the squad is at the moment estimating to be out around $1,500 from lost revenue as a result of fees from potential attendees. Nielsen tells us that makes up about 20% of her overall team’s budget, which helps pay for things such as equipment and uniforms. However, the program also holds a mattress sale and that, according to the coach, brings in a larger chunk of revenue.

That, too, has been postponed, and that couldn’t come at a worse time for the program as they did not hold this fundraiser last year due to scheduling issues. So the financial impacts for this program are unclear, but one thing is certain – the Red Wolves program will be running perhaps leaner this year as a result of the situation. Money, however, isn’t the only concern for the coach. Player safety is becoming a bigger one. “Honestly, I’m starting to get concerned with whether we have a season or not this fall. I’m trying to stay optimistic but without a pre-season and having girls who haven’t touched a volleyball since last fall and just having them dive in head first… that’s a scary though(t) and it could be disastrous to say the least. Especially physically,” Nielsen told us by email.

The coach, who will be in her second year with the Red Wolves this fall, coaches as well with the Lynnwood-based Washington Volleyball Academy club, whose season, along with all other club programs in USA Volleyball’s Puget Sound Region, were abruptly halted when all youth sports around the country, along with everything else in sport around the world, shut down in mid-March amidst the implementation of the orders. While some players did play for club programs this spring, the Red Wolves also have a contingent of players who have not played since the season ended last fall so unless practices are allowed to start on time, it could be an issue this fall.

Other programs at CHS are also impacted; the girls’ basketball program’s camp has also been postponed, and that is likely to cost them several thousand dollars, which would have gone for equipment, uniforms and holiday tournament fees.

The finishing area at the old Cascade Golf Course in North Bend, slated to be the home course for Mount Si High School’s cross country program this fall. The Wildcat program is slated to hold a summer camp, but that could be canceled due to the pandemic and cost the program a significant chunk of their revenue, potentially threatening their ability to use the facility. (File photo, Rhett Workman/SVSJ)

Mount Si High School is not immune from this either. The school’s cross country program is set to host a camp in July. Coach Sean Sundwall tells the SVSJ they are aiming to still be able to hold the camp, but if the orders extend well into the summer, which is possible, that could also be threatened, which if it is, could put the program out nearly three-fourths of its expected budget for the coming season (around $5,000). Uniforms and other equipment, and perhaps rental fees for their presumed new home at the old Cascade Golf Course property in North Bend, owned by Si View Metro Parks, are slated to be covered by this revenue, and also support from the program’s parent boosters.

Sundwall hopes for a season in the fall, but cautions some of the potential restrictions that may be needed may not work for his sport. “I think you can have sports while not having school in the building,” Sundwall told us by email. “Masks won’t work, though. (Athletes) can’t run with masks on (their faces).” Masks or face coverings as you heard on Monday were strongly urged to be worn by residents by the head of the Seattle-King County health department, Dr. Jeff Duchin, and while that was not imposed as a formal order by the department, it is expected that masks and other face coverings will likely be needed for high school sports to take place in Washington this fall.

The issues facing high school sports fundraising are statewide in nature; it is believed that programs – both at the high school and college levels – could lose in the millions of dollars through the loss of camps, summer tournaments or other fundraising opportunities. And sports teams are not the only high school organizations that will be hurt – band and choir programs along with other extracurriculars at high schools around the state, such as FFA (Future Farmers of America), DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), and foreign language clubs, also rely on out-of-school fundraising for some of their budgets, and those also are being affected by this. In total, between all of this and likely cuts to staff and programs by school districts statewide as a result of reduced tax revenues, schools and kids are likely to see reduced educational opportunities this coming school year and beyond and that, if it comes to pass, could hurt their chances at success.

It is unclear at this time whether school will start on time in the fall; this school year is scheduled to end June 19 but there is concern the virus will not have abated enough to allow for a full start of school in the fall. However, among the four court cases pending dealing with the current shutdowns is one in state court involving the constitutionality of the school closures. Several plaintiffs in southwest Washington’s Lewis County, which covers Centralia and Chehalis, have filed a lawsuit challenging the closures as unconstitutional because the resulting online learning model in their view has been inequitable for students. Were that suit to be successful, schools would likely be open on time this September.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
This entry was posted in Basketball, College Sports, Equestrian/Horse, Football, Lacrosse, News and Comment, On the Diamond, On the Links, Rugby, Soccer, Tennis, Track/XC/Running, Volleyball, Water Sports, Wrestling/Gymnastics. Bookmark the permalink.