Delayed start of winter sports in Kansas contemplated as COVID-19 cases increase

Kansas State High School Activities Association is considering several measures, including a delayed start to competition and fewer events



Members of the boys basketball team tryout after school on Thursday, Nov. 19.

By Cuyler Dunn and Sarah Farhat

As COVID cases continue to surge in Kansas, the future of winter sports remains uncertain.

Just days after Superintendent Anthony Lewis announced at a USD 497 board meeting the decision to continue with high school winter sports, the Kansas State High School Activities Association is now moving toward a possible delay of all winter sports until January. The decision will go to a final vote with the board of directors on Tuesday. USD 497 has already moved middle school sports to January. The district hasn’t announced a final decision on wrestling, which continues to offer conditioning although local health officials have expressed significant worries around students competing in the sport.

Students from across Lawrence High School had different reactions to the news.

“Having a delay on the season is not great,” said sophomore Serenity Kio, who plays basketball. “We as a team could use that time to become better, stronger and more improved on our weaknesses. But, I know all of us will have collective responsibility to improve individually and help one another. In-person and team bonding will affect us. Having good chemistry with your team is very important.”

The decision comes as COVID-19 cases in Kansas and Douglas County are surging to record numbers with hospitals running out of space across the state.

Given the nature of indoor contact sports, some athletes weren’t surprised by the delay.

“A delay on any season to me isn’t unexpected or anything,” junior Layla Harjo said. “In times like this, it is very scary, and basketball is a contact sport. Although, from my understanding about the Lady Lion basketball team is that we always find a way to connect and to hold each other accountable in our circumstances. There is a lot of uncertainty about our season this year, but we are still young and have a lot ahead of us.”

Sophomore Amaya Marshall, another basketball player, was sidelined over the summer with an injury and is ready to get back to playing, whenever that may be.

“The delay in sports honestly has worked in my favor because of my knee injury, and it gives me more time to heal,” she said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to play this summer because of my injury so I’m so excited to just be on the court again with my team and play.”

One high contact sport that has been debated is wrestling, which poses many challenges for competing safely. Junior wrestler Joey Gadzia has already accepted the delay.

“It would be unfortunate but it really kind of sounds like it’s going to happen,” he said. “I guess I’ve already come to terms that it’s going to happen, so we’ll see. I’m not worried about it personally just because I’m young and healthy. I’m not worried at all”

Some athletes are maintaining a positive mindset on how the delay could help them improve. 

“I think that the delay could really only help us come together as a team and work on our weaknesses,” sophomore Cree Stewart said. “This year is definitely going to be new for all of us but we’re all young and have time to get through all of this.”

The proposed KSHSAA changes would lead to:

  • Delaying competitions for all winter activities until Jan. 15.
  • Allowing virtual competition only in Debate and Scholars Bowl.
  • Practices continuing where appropriate through Dec. 22 with all KSHSAA risk mitigation protocols strictly enforced.
  • An extension of the winter moratorium from Dec. 23-Jan. 3, eliminating contact between coach and athletes at school and no school facility use.
  • Tentative resumption of competition on Jan. 15.
  • No fans for competitions through Jan. 28.
  • Limited fans allowed beginning Jan. 29 and through the remainder of winter competitions.
  • Mandatory universal masking with exceptions for athletes in competition and officials during live action.
  • No invitational tournaments.
  • High School competition limits of 13 games per basketball team; eight days per team/individual for bowling; six maximum competitions for swimmers and divers; and 12 events and a maximum of 20 competitions for wrestlers.

Arien Roman Rojas contributed to this report.