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Fall sports are back at Ames: School board approves move to hybrid instruction model

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
The Ames High football team and all other Little Cyclone fall sports programs were given the go-ahead to resume their seasons starting next Monday. They were taking a two-week break following the Ames School Board's decision to go to a 100-percent Off-Site Required Continuous Learning delivery model on Sept. 8. But on Thursday the board approved the move to a 50-percent face-to-face hybrid instruction model, allowing sports to resume.

The Little Cyclones are back in action.

All fall sports programs and activities at Ames High were given the go-ahead to resume competition Monday following Thursday’s approval by Ames School Board to move to a 50% hybrid instruction model.

On Aug. 31 the Ames School Board voted to begin the 2020-21 school year in a 100% off-site model starting the following week due to high COVID-19 positivity rates in the Ames community. The positivity rate exceeded the school’s local metrics and those outlined by the Department of Education.

With that, no fall activities were allowed to take place. Ames athletics and activities went on two-week break beginning Sept. 8.

But after reassessing the COVID-19 situation in the community this week, the school board decided it was safe to make the move to the new hybrid instruction model. This allows for all fall sports and activities to pick back up on Monday. 

“I am excited for our fall sports to resume activities next week,” Ames athletic director Judge Johnston said. “It will be great to see our student athletes and coaches back competing and  representing Ames High School athletically."

Thursday’s decision by the school board brought a lot of joy to the student-athletes and coaches involved in fall sports — football, volleyball, girls’ swimming, boys’ golf and boys’ and girls cross country — along with all of their supporters at Ames.

“I personally am most excited to be back on deck and interacting with the girls in person,” Ames head swim coach Joe Fisher said. “Spending time with these kids is one of the highlights of my day. I can’t wait to see them.”

Ames head football coach Kevin Feguson said the two-week break was challenging for his staff and players, especially the seniors. 

“I feel as though there was a part of them thinking their senior night game against Urbandale might be their last,” Ferguson said. “At our Sunday afternoon team meeting we as coaches addressed the unknown by staying positive with the players and that we believed we would be back playing by (Ankeny) Centennial. This was the only way we could allow ourselves to think.”

But he was pleased with how those within his program responded to the adversity.

“The unknown has been the most mentally challenging for all in the program,” Ferguson said. “Yet as a coach it has become clear to me the more we learn about this virus the more we learn how to live with it and find ways to adapt.  If this is teaching our players anything it is teaching them how adjustments need to be made but we can never find ourselves standing still.”

It may take a little time for some of the Ames teams to get back in the groove of things. Players and coaches were not allowed to meet face-to-face during the downtime. 

“Over these two weeks we have stressed the importance of getting better regardless of the circumstances,” Ferguson said. “Coaches would conduct virtual meetings to provide guidance and direction with drill work, and scouting info on our upcoming opponent. I'm sure there will be some rust to shake off. However, I believe there would be so much more if our players didn't take such a determined stance on improvement.  That is a credit to the hard work to both players and coaches.”  

The more individual-oriented sports — girls’ swimming, cross country and boys’ golf — will likely be able to shake off the rust quicker.

“As swimming is a year round sport, our kids spend the offseason with our local club program, ACAC,” Fisher said. “During the break, the girls were able to get practice time with ACAC to keep them sharp. I can’t thank Mike Peterson, ACAC head coach, enough for helping us out. Mike is a former AHS swimmer who swam for Dan (Flannery) and loves the AHS swim program as much as anyone. The AHS and ACAC swim programs are truly one big family.” 

There will still be hurdles to climb in the fight to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

But Johnston, assistant athletic director Ian Smith and all the Ames fall sports coaches will continue to adhere to strict safety guidelines they put in place at the start of the season in order to keep the athletes, coaches and spectators safe. They want to give their athletes as many opportunities as possible to have fun and chase their dreams. 

“We are most looking forward to another opportunity to prove ourselves,” Ferguson said. “We are looking forward to playing together as a team and growing from our experience.”