Governor Ralph Northam signed an executive order allowing high school sports to resume in December as planned. Meanwhile, the Virginia High School League issued guidelines to ensure that athletes, coaches, officials and spectators will be as safe as possible during games.
“Athletics is embedded in Louisa County. It is a part of day-to-day life in this community,” said Louisa County High School athletic director George Stanley. “I am all about the opportunity to compete, even though things will operate quite differently than what we are accustomed to.”
While the rules and general play of most sporting events won’t change, there are a number of practices that will be different, at least for this year. In basketball, for example, the jump ball at center court used to start games has been suspended for the upcoming season. Instead, the visiting team will get the first possession of the game.
Soccer is suspending the drop-ball restart, which is generally used to resume a game if play stops for some reason other than normal fouls or other game play, such as an injured player. Instead, an indirect free kick will be given to the team that last had possession.
For baseball and softball, shared equipment, including bats and batting helmets, must be cleaned between uses. Players will not be allowed to gather at home plate to congratulate teammates after hitting a home run.
In tennis, players are recommended to avoid “all incidental contact” during doubles matches, including whispering from a close distance to strategize. Bench areas in soccer, football and field hockey are being extended to give players more room to spread out.
While players will not be required to wear masks when participating in sporting events, they are required whenever they’re on the sideline or in the dugout and not actively engaged in the game.
The guidelines also set a cap for the number of spectators who can attend games at either 250 people or 50 percent of stadium or gym capacity, whichever number is smaller.
Stanley said that he and athletic directors across the Jefferson District are working together to come up with policies for their home events to make the experience as consistent as possible at all the schools in the district.
“I am focused on providing the best and safest experience for our kids, coaches and community members, no matter what the crowd allowance may be,” he said.
The high school has scheduled tryouts to begin in December. Basketball teams will hold theirs the week of Dec. 7, and the other winter sports will follow the week of Dec. 14. The Lions will play their first basketball games on Dec. 22 against the Monticello Mustangs. The swim and wrestling teams start their competitions on Dec. 29 with the swim team traveling to Fluvanna and wrestling hosting Charlottesville. Indoor track will host Charlottesville for their first meet on Jan. 6.