Prep Sports

Jean Berger, Tom Keating and the aftermath of the decision to open up Iowa high school sports

Gov. Kim Reynolds eased restrictions of school-sponsored activities, and IGHSAU and IHSAA boards unanimously voted to allow softball and baseball

Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union executive director Jean Berger shares a light moment with senior associate directo
Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union executive director Jean Berger shares a light moment with senior associate director Karon Brown during the 2016 state softball tournament. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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It’s not as if Jean Berger left Wednesday’s meeting feeling a massive sense of victory.

“By the end of the day, we had more questions than answers,” the executive director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union said. “The virus is still here, and will be here for a long time.”

Hours after Gov. Kim Reynolds opened school activities effective June 1, the state’s governing bodies for high school sports voted to lift the suspension of their summer seasons.

Both votes were unanimous: 7-0 for softball by the IGHSAU board of directors, 8-0 for baseball by the Iowa High School Athletic Association board of control.

“We got to the point that we felt we had enough information and additional guidelines that made us confident we could do this,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said.

Before Wednesday’s announcement by the governor, Keating and Berger were in frequent contact with Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education, as well as representatives from the Iowa Department of Pubic Health.

Softball and baseball teams may begin practice June 1. Competition will start June 15.

Both will be full of logistical challenges and restrictions.

And health risks. Like Berger said, COVID-19 isn’t going away.

“There is a sense that we’re living in a different time,” she said. “There are things we’re going to have to learn to manage.

“Nothing we do is risk-free. Of course, we have concerns and worries.”

Keating said, “I would say that ‘concern’ is a better word than ‘worry.’ My concern is, let’s do this right.”

Iowa high school sports had been on hold since the end of the boys’ state basketball tournament March 13. Spring sports (track and field, soccer, golf and tennis) were suspended, then shut down.

Thursday would have been the first day of the co-ed state track and field meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.

State softball is scheduled for July 20-24 at the Rogers Sports Complex, Fort Dodge, but those dates are subject to change, if necessary.

“It could be the same, it could change. We’ve looked at two or three different scenarios,” said Berger, who believes all five classes will remain at the same site.

State baseball will be July 24-Aug. 1 at Principal Park, Des Moines. Keating anticipates sticking with that site and schedule.

In the coming days, school and conference administrators will be determining how a regular season will work. How many games? How will transportation work for away contests? How will home games be staffed?

So many questions. And here’s another: Will all schools field a team?

“I would love for all schools to play,” Keating said. “But I absolutely support and understand the folks that just aren’t there yet.”

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“To participate, it’s an individual decision for a player, a coach, an umpire,” Berger said. “To put a team out there, it’s a district decision, and a lot depends on where you live compared to where the outbreaks are.”

Schools have been shut down for weeks. Since then, many students have been isolated from their peers.

“Maybe kids don’t miss writing a five-page paper, but they miss being around their friends at school,” Keating said. “This will be a step in the direction of getting back in touch with that.”

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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