The impact of the Arizona teacher strike could stretch to ball fields and tennis courts if school districts decide to cancel their varsity and junior varsity playoff participation in the face of the walkout.
Despite Thursday’s impending statewide walkout, the Arizona Interscholastic Association has decided that all sports can continue, but school districts can choose to suspend activities if desired.
“All state championships will go on as scheduled. Each school or school district can determine their approach to the playoffs,” said AIA Executive Director David Hines.
In some cases, the decision to continue the spring seasons seems to involve the financial investments already in place for state tournaments and other competitions.
School athletic programs have made several venue reservations for postseason events, such as the upcoming state baseball tournament, which will be held at various MLB spring training sites across the Valley.
Playoffs already have begun for several spring sports, including baseball, softball, tennis and beach volleyball.
At press time, Tempe Union High School District had made no official announcement of what it would do, leaving some teams from Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high schools uncertain of what lay ahead.
District spokeswoman Jen Liewer said, “Our hope is to continue to offer athletics and activities.”
Hamilton High School tennis coach Phil Gonzales thinks finishing out the campaigns is the right thing to do.
“Who knows what changes are coming, but the kids worked so hard and I don’t think we should take the playoffs away from them,” he said.
However, Gonzales could very well be asked by his colleagues not to coach for the duration of the strike.
One rumor that has intensified in recent days regards whether some coaches will be asked to step away from their teams as a sign of solidarity with their striking colleagues. Many varsity coaches also are teachers.
That predicament confronts Cody Brassifield, Desert Vista’s varsity baseball coach and professor of chemical physics.
When questioned about the possibility of being asked to abandon his team, Brassfield replied, “I’m not excited about that. I’ll talk to the A.D. to see what we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“I want to support my peers and reap the benefits, but at the same time, I’m not willing to sacrifice what I’m doing in the classroom and all the baseball stuff,” he added. “I’m not really comfortable missing out on this stuff.”
The concern over the ongoing situation is apparent for the coaches, but the players also are cognizant of how the walkout could impact their seasons as well.
“I think it has the potential” to be a distraction, admitted Matt Denny, Mountain Pointe’s varsity baseball coach. “I know we’re all fighting for better situations for kids and teachers. It’s just hard because it’s not going to be better for the seniors I have if something was to happen in a negative manner.”
But if the past few months of competitive sports have demonstrated anything, it’s that the players have been able to separate the issues on and off the field.
Chris Hanson, DV boys track and field coach, said his students have been focused solely on the team, not on the outside distractions. His understanding is that everything will continue as planned for his squad.
“Our focus is on the process of what we can control,” the coach said.
Desert Vista sophomore Luke Urlaub, who plays on the school’s tennis team, added, “I don’t know what’s going to happen if the coaches do go on strike. None of us really know, so we just have to focus on playing and doing what we can.”
Brassfield reiterated Hanson’s claim.
He has seen the ongoing strike talk become a distraction for his students in class, but not for his baseball team on the diamond. While curious students openly ask about the strike during school hours, the players simply want to go out and play, he said, adding:
“If school opened up, I’m going be here to teach and coach. I’m hoping for a resolution.”