PHOENIX — The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) has voted to cancel all winter sports due to COVID-19 concerns.
Winter sports were scheduled to begin later this month after they were delayed in December.
The AIA voted 5-4 on the decision Friday afternoon to cancel the winter sports season.
“While we understand the Board’s position, we are saddened by this decision, especially considering that Club sports are continuing. To the best of our knowledge, never in our 100-plus-year history has the AIA canceled an entire season,” said AIA Executive Director David Hines. “We want nothing more than for our students to be active in school and participating in interscholastic sports and activities. It is my sincerest hope that all Arizonans will follow the CDC and Arizona Health guidelines by wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and practicing social distance to decrease cases and hospitalizations. If for no other reason, I hope we can do it for the kids.”
Arizona has reported 877 deaths since the start of the week and we have now lost 9,938 Arizonans since March. The state continues to be one of the worst in the country for new positive COVID-19 tests and deaths as cases continue to rise.
“Unfortunately, it is expected that the state will see a continued rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations for some time. As medical professionals, we cannot in good conscience recommend that students engage in a winter season under the current conditions,” said SMAC Committee Chair Dr. Wilson.
Patrick Battillo is the head coach for the boys’ basketball team at Peoria High School. He believes that having students in a controlled environment with their team is a safer option than them having extra free time to spend elsewhere.
"First and foremost, safety has been and is my top priority for our staff and student-athletes. The decision by the AIA to cancel winter sports is extremely disappointing and concerning,” Battillo said. “Student-athletes are safer practicing and playing in these extremely controlled environments five to six days a week with the same group of individuals, where having no season will now mean they are out in public in less controlled environments putting their health and the health of the general public at greater risk.”
Battillo also echoed Hines’ comment that canceling AIA sports will not keep athletes from participating in their sports.
“From a sports perspective, the CAA and Prep programs are operating and will continue to operate. If the governor and state leadership has not deemed sports to be a safety risk worth shutting down, I do not understand why the AIA felt that was the best option,” Battillo said. “Many student-athletes will now leave AIA programs and schools to pursue their athletic goals, and the results of this decision will have long-term detrimental impacts on the AIA, in my opinion.”
Battillo and many others also argue that sports are beneficial to a student athlete’s mental heath, during a time where they have very few options to escape from everyday life.
Winter sports include basketball, soccer, and wrestling for Arizona high schools.
The AIA says spring sports, which are currently scheduled to begin March 1, will depend on state metrics along with recommendations from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.