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Rural schools share challenges facing high school sports due to COVID-19

Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 11:15 PM AKST|Updated: Dec. 24, 2020 at 5:24 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Moving forward safely with high school sports during a pandemic is a dilemma that school administrators have dealt with all school year. For many athletes, their high school sports career is the last chance they get to play competitive sports, and many believe it instills healthy lifestyle choices throughout their life.

The Alaska Schools Activities Association held a cross-country running state championship before canceling the rest of the fall sports championships including football due to the concern of putting on a statewide event during a health crisis.

This meant school districts have been in charge of moving forward with regular-season sports using ASAA COVID-19 recommendations as a framework.

This hasn’t been an issue for larger school districts on the road system, but in rural Alaska, it’s been less feasible with many teams traveling by plane to play their regular season. Travel will also play a big role in upcoming sports scheduled to start in January like basketball, wrestling and mix-6 volleyball

Bethel High School athletic director Darren Lieb said it’s hard with the widespread transmission of COVID-19 to offer sports, but he knows the importance it has on his students.

“We need structure, without it they are going to get disengaged,” Lieb shared. “We all know what can happen with that when we lose a kid to something. They are going to find something else, and a lot of times it is getting in trouble or trying to sneak something.”

Lieb and athletic directors across the state are dealing with similar situations and trying to think of ways to keep kids involved in activities safely.

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