One week before winter sports practices were set to begin in D.C., the city announced it is suspending high school athletics until February. Under revised coronavirus-related restrictions unveiled Monday, all athletic activities for high-school-aged residents, both scholastic and recreational, are prohibited.

D.C.’s long-held return-to-play date of Dec. 14 has been shifted to Feb. 1. The D.C. State Athletic Association still plans to hold three condensed seasons, but that schedule is now more compact.

Under the new plan, winter sports practice will begin Feb. 1, and the season will run from Feb. 8 to March 27. For fall sports, football practice will begin March 1, and other activities will begin March 8. Fall competition will run from March 15 to May 1. Spring sports will begin practice April 26, and competition goes from May 3 to June 12.

“While it is disappointing to delay the start of the athletic season, our focus remains on getting student-athletes on the field and court and back to competition,” DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said in a news release. “We know the positive impact that athletics have on our youths and look forward to getting back in action. Of course, we will continue to monitor the situation and maintain the flexibility to return to play as soon as we can.”

The previous plan, set forth in midsummer, had always been described by DCSAA officials as a wait-and-see approach. Under that proposal, teams would have three weeks of practice and six weeks of competition. With the updated schedule, that has been changed to one week of practice and seven weeks of competition, with considerable overlap between the winter and fall seasons.

“When we made the decision to push back the start of the season, we were aware of the possibility that the new schedule might not be met,” Ray said. “Our goal was that if the data and science supported returning to play in December, that’s what we would do. Unfortunately, at this time, the risks associated with playing simply are too high.”

Monday’s announcement made a distinction between high-school-aged athletes and those younger. While high-school-aged athletes are sidelined until February, children who are middle school age and younger can continue to partake in organized drills and clinics as long as the athletes are in groups of no more than 12 and the activities do not involve contact with another person.

“The decision to do this is tied to observations around unsupervised actions that are happening before and after activities with older students,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said.

The announcement came on the day that some school districts in Maryland and Virginia kicked off winter sports practice. It’s now clear that if winter sports are played in the D.C. area this school year, they will be held on vastly different timelines across the region. That could have considerable effects on private leagues such as the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, which has schools in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

For a program such as Gonzaga, a WCAC school in Northwest Washington, the winter season may go on without it.

“I thought things would hopefully start turning the other way, but obviously we’re not seeing that,” Eagles basketball coach Steve Turner said. “I was praying and hoping we’d at least be able to get guys into the gym and give them an opportunity to work out.”

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