Rebound decisions: Will prep athletics and activities return to Colorado in the fall?

Parents, coaches, athletes hope for quick answers
Posted at 9:41 PM, May 14, 2020

DENVER -- The fall of 2020 is an important sports season for Charlie Offerdahl.

The senior is a running back and defensive back on Dakota Ridge High School’s football team and has already attracted interest from several universities, including Stanford and Yale. And he’s hoping to get on the radar of a more schools.

“CU, CSU in state,” he said. “(I’m) trying to catch their attention.”

But for Offerdahl and 40,000 other high school student athletes looking to participate in fall sports this year in Colorado, the season is full of uncertainty.

When Jefferson County Public Schools Executive Director of Athletics Jim Thyfault was asked if there would be football this fall, he told Contact7 Investigates he couldn’t answer that question at the moment.

Brock Zanetell, who will be a junior quarterback at Columbine High School, said he’d like to know right now if the season will happen, but also worries that the immediate answer wouldn’t necessarily be the right answer.

He’s also missing training with his teammates during the offseason.

“It’s really weird right now, but every team wants to really just be together right now and grind during the offseason,” he said.

The uncertainty is causing anxiety for coaches, especially in Jefferson County, where the local health department has so far decided that team sports and activities are prohibited through July 31. Other counties have the potential to open up earlier, meaning that teams in those areas could possibly start practices sooner than Jefferson County schools.

“It’s a little concerning that potentially other districts may have a competitive advantage a little bit,” Dakota Ridge High School football Head Coach Ron Woitalewicz said. “But that’s out of my control.”

Both Woitalewicz and Columbine High School Head Coach Andy Lowry say that the unknown has created some anxiety.

“I am kind of a plan A-B-C-D guy,” he said. “Right now, everybody has a plan A-to-Z.”

Woitalewicz added: “The unknown, I think, is frustrating. … It changes day to day.”

Thyfault acknowledges that it might not be possible to make everybody happy, but feels that school superintendents will make the best decisions for the students.

“When we walk away at the end of the day, we’re going to know that we made decisions based on what we felt was best for kids,” Thyfault said.

Colorado High School Activities Association Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green said she is working to provide support for district superintendents, noting that input from the governor, county health departments and COVID-19 data sources will play significant roles in determining when and if sports will return in the fall.

“In deciding the next steps, there are a lot of different factors and a lot of different people that are part of what we are doing,” she said.

Blanford-Green said she is optimistic about a fall season, but June 15 will be a key date to determine how to move forward. CHSAA will closely watch how pro and college sports handle things.

“We don’t have any idea what’s going to happen in August at this point,” Lowry said. “You know, I think our No. 1 job is to keep everyone safe and healthy and whatever that looks like…”