Fall sports under a cloud

Anyone hoping for news about when high school football season is going to start will have to wait a little longer.

At an executive committee meeting on June 25, the Virginia High School League was unable to put forward any recommendations regarding the fall sports schedule. 

“All our efforts are working towards advocating for the opening of sports and activities in a safe and reasonable way,” said Dr. John Haun, VHSL executive director. “As we move forward, it would not be reasonable to release a fall schedule or calendar until we learn more about future phases.”

The biggest concern delaying action on a fall sports schedule is uncertainty about how long Virginia will be in phase three of Governor Ralph Northam’s reopening plan, which began on July 1. 

Among the guidelines for sports put forth by the Virginia Department of Health for sports in phase three is a recommendation for 10 feet of distance between players, coaches and spectators at games and practices and to limit sharing of equipment as much as possible. While this would have a minimal impact on sports like golf or cross country, it will make playing more contact-driven sports like football very difficult.

The VHSL has consulted with other states and created models of what sports for the 2020-21 school year could look like if phase three extends into the fall. One model would have schools begin with winter sports in December for a shortened season which would end in mid-February. Fall sports, including football, volleyball and cross country would be moved to a second season, beginning on Feb. 15 and running through May 1. Spring sports such as baseball, soccer and tennis would begin in April with the season running through the end of June.

While sports seasons can’t officially begin yet, off-season practices can resume once schools submit a plan for the health and safety of students to the Virginia Department of Education and receive approval. 

Louisa County High School has begun planning for optional practices for their sports, following the CDC, VHSL and state guidelines. Louisa’s coaches have been trained in how to properly clean equipment and practice areas and how to monitor athletes while they practice. 

“We do not know what the future holds, but we will continue to practice safe measures for everyone’s well-being,” said LCHS athletic director George Stanley.

The VHSL executive committee will meet again at the end of July and in August, when conditions might be improved enough to consider fall play. 

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