Q&A: RV plans winter sports, says sports not responsible for COVID-19 spread

Valley Sentinel

Recently, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) released both their winter guidelines and a University of Wisconsin study that found scholastic sports were not a significant source for spreading COVID-19. Valley Sentinel spoke with River Valley School District’s Activities Director Jaime Hegland about how the District will handle winter sports and its data on the spread of coronavirus in athletics. 

Valley Sentinel: What challenges do you expect the indoor winter sports season to bring and how do you expect that River Valley will rise to meet them?

Jaime Hegland: The challenge is that practices and competitions are indoors and all sports are considered contact sports.  I believe we’ve done a good job implementing our safety protocols for the fall season.  We’re currently working as a member of the Southwest Conference to develop our protocols for winter, which will be based upon the WIAA’s Winter Sport’s Guidelines.

VS: What are some ways you expect sports to be different this winter season?

JH: We’ll see different approaches to the “normal” operations during competitions;  like the elimination of the jump ball in basketball, like the elimination of handshakes to start and end wrestling matches, like detailed sanitizing of equipment and apparatus in gymnastics.  Obviously the seasons are shorter, so there will be less competition in general.   The schedules will reflect less travel and likely the elimination of in-season tournaments.  Wrestling for example, is only allowed to have dual meet competitions 6-7 days apart. 

VS: What should the community expect spectating to look like? Should they expect to spectate in person or should we all have RVTV bookmarked?

JH: Spectating at winter events has been a hot topic.  As a conference we will work to incorporate a common approach within our operating protocols.  I will continue to advocate for two spectators for each student-athlete and coach, but again, as a conference we feel it is important to agree on this topic.  RVTV does a great job, Matt Snow works incredibly hard to provide as many viewing opportunities as possible for the River Valley Community.

VS: Has there been any similar discussion or do you expect River Valley and the SWC to hold a full winter season?

JH: We are planning to operate winter sports and other activities like the High School Musical as best we can.  Although these activities aren’t required, I believe they’re essential to physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being of our students.

VS: How well do you think River Valley sports have responded to COVID for the fall season? Are there areas that need improvement before the winter season? Are there areas you think stand as a blueprint to emulate for other schools?

JH: I believe that River Valley has responded well!  We are still having students attend in-person school (for those wanting) four days a week, we’ve completed most of the fall sports season. 

VS: The WIAA and UW released a study recently that indicated Wisconsin school sports don’t increase COVID-19 cases. Do those findings appear to hold true at River Valley?

JH: Our data doesn’t show that school or sports increase the spread of COVID – 19. 
Hopefully that doesn’t change…