The decision by Arlington Public Schools’ leadership to cancel its winter sports season may not have been unexpected, but a lack of communication with coaches left some fuming nonetheless.
“I’m not saying it’s the wrong decision, but why couldn’t we have been included in the conversation?” said one veteran head coach at a county high school, who as with other coaches interviewed asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter and the potential for repercussions.
“I wish they could have at least tried to have a winter season,” the coach told the Sun Gazette. “Then if it didn’t work out, shut it down then. But at least give it a try.”
The school-system leadership on Nov. 5 formally cancelled the winter sports season, in part because students – who were supposed to be coming back into class this month – instead face the prospect of a lengthy “virtual” learning experience under the policy of Superintendent Francisco Durán.
The winter high-school sports season had tentatively been set to begin in mid-to-late December and end in last January or early February, a truncated campaign owing to the COVID pandemic.
The winter campaign traditionally includes girls and boys sports of basketball, swimming and diving and indoor track and field, along with wrestling, girls gymnastics and rifle. Club ice hockey, which is not affiliated with the school system, plans to continue its seasons, which began in recent days.
The decision to cancel took a number of head coaches by surprise, so they weren’t able to talk about the situation ahead of time with their athletes and the parents of the athletes.
“My players and their parents are texting me tonight like crazy,” one Arlington coach said in the aftermath of the Nov. 5 decision.
The question now is will other nearby counties, like Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, follow suit and cancel their winter campaigns, as well.
“It could be a domino effect,” one Arlington coach said.
The Virginia High School League, which has a degree of oversight of public-school athletics, has laid out plans for winter sports seasons to proceed. But it has no power to force individual school districts to participate.
(Students who find themselves shut out of public-school athletics are increasingly gravitating to club sports, which are fielding competition under public-health guidelines.)
Private schools in the local area, like Arlington’s Bishop O’Connell, have yet to make any final decision about their winter seasons. But unlike the region’s public schools, most private schools have managed to reopen their classrooms to students, at least on a hybrid basis, with students rotating in and out during the week.
The fall sports season for public schools throughout Virginia was canceled because of COVID, and postponed until the early spring. A decision on the future is likely not to come until after the start of 2021.
[Sun Gazette Newspapers provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]