As the winter season continues to dwindle away, NIAA officials continue to plead with Governor Sisolak to relax directives and allow prep sports to resume. Above, the PCHS volleyball team celebrates a point last season. Volleyball and soccer have a green light to begin practice in February.
As the winter season continues to dwindle away, NIAA officials continue to plead with Governor Sisolak to relax directives and allow prep sports to resume. Above, the PCHS volleyball team celebrates a point last season. Volleyball and soccer have a green light to begin practice in February.
Pershing County’s 10-month sports drought may be coming to an end. However, the high school wrestlers and basketball players just got some sad news. 

“Due to the governor’s extension of the pause, we have shut down the basketball and wrestling seasons at this time,” said Pershing County superintendent Russell Fecht last weekend.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak instituted the statewide pause in November 2020. So far, he’s extended it twice in response to community spread of COVID-19. Last month, the NIAA lobbied the governor to take basketball and wrestling off the no-play list. It didn’t happen.

The cancellation affects about 15 basketball players and nine wrestlers. They had hoped to begin practice on Jan. 2 and compete from Jan. 15 through Feb. 20, a six-week marathon. 

“A lot of our guys were pretty devoted to the (2021 basketball) season, even if it was up in the air,” said Dalton McNeff, a graduating senior. “Everyone was working as hard as they could every practice, especially the first-year players.”



Now what?

For the girls, soccer and volleyball loom straight ahead. Each team begins practice on Feb. 20 and plays from March 5 through April 10.

The boys have to wait a little longer. 

“At this time, football is prohibited from unmodified practice or competitions just like basketball and wrestling,” said the superintendent. 

Practice would have started one week earlier than the other fall sports, on Feb. 13.

But the news isn’t all bad.  

“Volleyball and soccer, as well as all of our spring sports (baseball, softball and track) are currently approved to proceed,” he added.

Baseball, softball, and track begin practice on April. 3. Their competitive seasons run from April 16 through May 22.



What will sports 

look like? 

Pre-COVID, traveling athletes ate at fast food restaurants. Fernley was a standard stop with runs to Arby’s, Jack in the Box and Wendy’s. However, none of the restaurants currently offer in-person dining. In Nevada, it’s illegal to walk through a drive-through. They accommodate cars — not buses.

For now, the athletes and coaches will pack their food for trips.

Pre-COVID, the PCHS student section overflowed with kids, especially at high-stakes games. The spirit squad danced with the school mascot. Families traveled hither and yon to watch the competition. For now, that’s changed too.

“As of today (Jan. 15), we will not be allowing access to anybody other than the teams, coaches and officials required to be there to run the event,” the superintendent said in an email. “That could change by the time volleyball and soccer get here, but under the governor’s restrictions, we will be extremely tight.”

That means no media and no fans, including students. The restriction applies to both indoor and outdoor games. 

“Coaches will wear masks,” said Brooks. “Players that are actively playing will not wear masks, but they will when they are on the bench. No slack for soccer.”



Fasten your seatbelts

The road ahead is full of potentially season-ending bumps. Transportation presents a significant hurdle. 

Games depend on the availability of buses and drivers. Under current restrictions, it will take extra buses to get the athletes to and from events.

Athletic buses run under the same protocols as on their daily routes. They are limited to approximately 50 percent capacity with social distancing and mask-wearing. Windows remain open for increased ventilation.

“Some schools have already indicated they won’t be able to travel during the week unless transportation restrictions are relaxed,” said Fecht. “It’s a complicated situation, to say the least.”

There’s also the unpredictability of the virus. According to NIAA guidelines, if a coach or athlete tests positive, the season shuts down for two weeks of quarantine.

“Coaches have to be tested before the season,” said Brooks. “Athletes are tested at school discretion, but if an athlete tests positive and has been involved in team activities, then the team must quarantine for 14 days.”

Finally, if a school pivots to full-time distance learning, they cannot compete in NIAA sanctioned sports.

“Schools on full remote/distance do not meet the NIAA requirement,” said Fecht. Out of 17 school districts, only Pershing, Eureka and Lincoln counties are currently offering full-time in-person instruction. Luckily, hybrid schools meet the requirement.

Pershing County’s athletes continue to train and hope. They also mentally prepare for it all going awry.

“Obviously everyone wants to play, but it’s really not up to us at this point,” said McNeff. “We’ll just have to deal with it and finish up the school year.”