After nearly four months of planning and gathering input from coaches, parents and administrators across the state, on Sept. 17 the Virginia High School League’s executive committee unanimously voted to approve a schedule for athletic and academic competitions for the 2020-21 school year.
“We cannot predict the future, but I believe we are moving in a good direction,” said George Stanley, Louisa County High School’s athletic director.
Called the “Championships +1” condensed interscholastic plan, the schedule allows for shortened seasons for each sport. Teams will only play two-thirds of their regular-season games.
Only the top four teams from each region will advance into postseason play, as opposed to the top eight teams in a normal year. The winning team from each region will advance to the state tournament. If a team is unable to play any of their games due to COVID-19-related issues, the game won’t be considered a forfeit, but will simply be treated as “not played.”
Teams that don’t qualify for the regional tournament will have the option to play one additional game to close out their season – hence the +1 in the schedule’s title – with another non-qualifying team.
The track and swim teams won’t use qualifying standards for the season and only the top athletes in each event at the regional tournament will advance to states (the top four in outdoor track and swimming and the top three for indoor track). Only the winning golf team from each region will advance, along with the top three individuals from non-qualifying teams. Cross country will see the top two teams and top three individual runners advance to states.
Dr. John Haun, VHSL executive director, noted that “no plan is perfect,” but that the goal was to create a “temporary new normal.”
“We understand this plan, or any plan, will not meet the expectations for those wanting a normal fall, winter and spring sports season,” he said. “[It] will allow student-athletes and academic activity participants the opportunity of having a season and playing for a state championship.”
Athletic competitions begin in December with winter sports like basketball, swim and dive, and wrestling. The basketball teams play their first games Dec. 21, and other sports can begin holding contests in January. The season will run through Feb. 20.
Fall sports will begin in February, with the first football games on Feb. 22. The other sports – golf, field hockey, cross country and volleyball – will hold their first games after March 1, with the season ending on May 1.
Spring sports, such as baseball, softball, soccer and tennis, will begin playing games on April 26. Their season ends on June 26.
Theatre, scholastic bowl, speech and debate and other academic competitions will begin their seasons in December as well, with district, region and state tournament dates between January and June 2021.
“Our kids are ready to get to it, regardless of how it’s set up,” Stanley said. “They miss competing and being around their teammates and coaches on a regular basis. It’s better to have an opportunity for condensed seasons rather than none at all. I look forward to seeing them compete in the near future and I know our community cannot wait either.”