DOUGLAS — Due to the fact COVID-19 numbers are not declining as many had hoped, Douglas Unified School District administrators have made the decision to cancel the entire winter sports season.
This decision was made less than 24 hours after the Arizona Interscholastic Association decided, by a 5-4 vote, to allow school districts in Arizona to have a winter sports season if they chose to.
“After careful consideration and being extra careful and cautious I had to make the very difficult decision of canceling the winter sports season,” Ana Samaniego, DUSD superintendent, said in an email. “I took guidance from the governing board, local county metrics pertaining to COVID cases and information from AIA. AIA has not made matters easy for school districts when even they cancel sports one day and reinstate them a few days later. This was no easy decision as this does affect students. Student athletes looked forward to their season, but I truly believe that they understand very well that the circumstances we are dealing with prevent us from having a safe season. The athletes have demonstrated true leadership. I have been very supportive of athletics and we found ways to continue doing virtual activities in which coaches still met with athletes, but competition for now is out of the question. There is too much risk for the students, staff and more so for their families.”
Mario Romero, coach of the Douglas High School girls soccer team, was one of two DHS coaches to respond when contacted for a comment regarding the cancellation.
“It’s very unfortunate that winter sports was canceled,” Romero said. “Due to the increase of COVID cases in Douglas and the county, it’s in the best interest for everyone.”
DHS wrestling coach Richard Ross added it seemed as if the “wrestling gods” were not in their favor this year, adding it was tough knowing they had to cancel the Tim Brown Invitational.
“We now have to take a step back and reorganize,” he said. “Our season may be canceled but not the love of wrestling. As soon as possible we will begin some type of practice. Club teams and the USA tourney will pop up but we must always keep our student-athletes safe and healthy at all times. We will be recognizing our seniors at a later date but just want all our kids and families to stay strong, stay healthy and stay positive.”
One of Romero’s main returning soccer players, Jennally Barco, who has already committed to play collegiate soccer next year at Cochise College, disagrees with the decision to not play winter sports at DHS and says she will continue to play soccer and get ready for her collegiate career but she will do it with her club team in Sierra Vista.
“I’m very upset our season was canceled,” she said. “This was my last year of playing soccer at Douglas High School and I was really looking forward to being able to play with my teammates one last time.”
Barco has been traveling to Sierra Vista several times a week for practice and says her team has played matches and tournaments. They are taking precautions and as of yet, no one on her team has contracted the coronavirus.
Douglas High School Athletic Director Angel Ortega said he plans on having some kind of ceremony for the seniors on each team but it will be done virtually much like it was done for football.
At the Jan. 12 meeting of the Douglas school board, several board members expressed their concerns about having a winter season and said they felt it was best the season as a whole be canceled and that the spring sports season be looked at in February.
“It’s interesting to note the first vote by the AIA to cancel was 5-4,” board president Ray Borane said at a Jan. 12 DUSD board meeting. “The next vote to reinstate was 5-4 so you can see that there is consternation there, there’s a lot of anxiety in all of those board members but the thing that happened was they relented to the pressure and it’s very obvious. Board members, ultimately we’re going to decide.”
Board member Mitch Lindemann said he saw a comment from Dr. Miller at Copper Queen who said, “Society will not return to normal as long as this disease is out there.”
Lindemann added he feels it’s not appropriate to have any type of contact or any activities going on as long as this is happening.
“We’ve got to do for Douglas what we’ve got to do for Douglas,” Dr. Ed Gomez added. “I move that we follow whatever the superintendent and powers to be at the high school decide.”
Mario Ramos said he would like to see the sports season on hold the way it is now and see if virus numbers come down enough so they can have some kind of a sports season next year.
Borane stated this board doesn’t want to replicate what the AIA did and he believes this board is on the right track.
“My major concern is, and this is what I tell parents if and when they ask, and they haven’t asked me lately that if we’re sacrificing all of our school activities, our academic activities and we’re delaying and hindering them, and then we turn around and give a full blown approval to athletics, I think we send the wrong message,” he said. “I know it’s a very important activity and there are a lot of students that depend on athletics to do further things and a lot of them depend on it for school in the future, but I think it looks like we’re totally indecisive when we allow athletics to continue, even with the guidelines and yet we tell our students and our teachers you’re not your not coming to school. We have to put a weight on what our priorities are.”