ISA, IIAAG hopeful season will kick off

INTERCEPTED: In this 2019 file photo, FD Friars' Kekoa Gamboa intercepts a pass intended for the Geckos' Cason Jackson. First quarter sports is expected to resume Oct. 15. Matt Weiss/The Guam Daily Post

When Guam’s first cases of coronavirus were announced in March 2020, schools were shuttered and sports were canceled. Without interscholastic athletics to fund and support, the 36th Legislature removed Guam Department of Education’s line-item allotment from the Limited Gaming Fund and Healthy Future Fund. The Limited Gaming Fund helps offset costs for field upkeep and maintenance. The Healthy Future Fund directly aids GDOE in offsetting the costs of running its sports programs. 

Without sports, or at least not a lot of sports in fiscal 2021, monies went elsewhere. 

But in early 2021, as the number of reported cases of the virus dipped and hospitals no longer felt the strain from COVID-19, some less-risky, non-contact sporting competitions were given the green light from Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

As competition resumed, some children and young adults suited up for their teams, but not everyone - they would have to wait until this school year to dust off their cleats, pads and helmets. But once the school year started and student-athletes rejoined their teams, the number of coronavirus cases soared, the island’s hospitals began filling with COVID-19 patients, and more people died.

Based on the staggering number of COVID-19 cases and the burden on an already fragile health care system, Leon Guerrero closed schools and sidelined sports effective Aug. 23. A couple of weeks later, even though the number of reported daily COVID-19 cases has remained in triple digits for more than a month, she allowed schools to reopen and competition to begin on Sept. 20.

Still, competition has not begun.

Marv Linder, the GDOE Interscholastic Sports Association’s interim director, told The Guam Daily Post that the “proposed schedules are being reviewed by athletic directors.”

“ISA will have a full season this year (of) all sports,” Linder added.

With fans and spectators allowed to attend sporting events, he added that the “spectators issue is still being addressed.”

“Luckily, we have three weeks before the start of the season,” he added.

Eyeing a mid-October start date, the delay may actually work to ISA’s advantage. With the Healthy Future Fund restored when the budget lapsed into law, the cash infusion should be a most-welcomed asset for rolling out its fledgling sports program.

Available Oct. 1, monies from the fund allocates $607,263 for interscholastic sports.

“The allocations made herein shall be available to fund 26 sports programs, to include the payment of head coaches, assistant coaches, league fees, busing services and other expenses normally associated with interscholastic sports,” reads Public Law 36-54.

The Healthy Future Fund, as stated in PL 36-54, also allocates $277,589 for “GDOE for Health and Physical Education programs, intramural sports and similar activities in Fiscal Year 2022.”