School athletics to start this winter

Football, volleyball, field hockey and other fall sports will be moved to the spring under the Condensed Interscholastic Plan adopted by the Virginia High School League for the 2020-21 school year.

Fall sports are officially on the schedule for the 2020-21 school year. They just won’t be played in the fall this year.

The Virginia High School League’s executive committee voted on July 27 to move forward with delaying the start of all sports and activities until December.

The Condensed Interscholastic Plan, as it is called, will push fall sports into the spring and shorten all athletic seasons. With this model, all sports could potentially have a season of some kind.

“We all understand the physical and mental health benefits of getting our students back to a level of participation,” said VHSL Executive Director John W. Haun. “[This plan] leaves open the opportunity to play all sports in all three seasons if Virginia moves beyond phase III and/or phase III guidelines are revised and high-risk activities are allowed.”

Haun added that the plan also allows schools time to open and “deal with issues such as schedules, academic plans, transportation [and] dealing with possible outbreaks of Covid-19 in the school.”

When sports do begin, winter sports, including basketball and wrestling, will be the first up, beginning their season on Dec. 14 with the first games on Dec. 28. The season will end Feb. 20. Fall sports (football, field hockey, volleyball, golf and cross country) will begin on Feb. 15 and run through May 1, with games beginning on March 1. Spring sports (baseball, tennis soccer, softball, outdoor track) would open their season on April 12, with the first games on April 26 and ending the season on June 26. All sports would play a shortened schedule, allowing only about 60 percent of their regular allotment of games. This means only six regular season football games, 12 games each for basketball and baseball, etc. 

Academic activities such as scholastic bowl, forensics and debate will be largely unaffected by the schedule changes, as most of their competitions happen throughout the school year and championships in the spring. The one exception is theater, which holds tournament competitions in the fall. 

“There is no 100 percent correct way to handle this situation, as we are making decisions as best we can while dealing with an unknown adversary,” said Louisa County High School athletic director George Stanley. “Do we all want activities/sports to happen, yes. Do we all want to make sure that our kids and coaches are safe, yes. It is time to roll back our sleeves and figure out how to make it happen and I am ready to get started.”

Even with the possibility of playing a condensed schedule, fall sports coaches are glad to know that there is a season for them to plan for.

“I’m excited about it,” said Louisa County High School field hockey coach Meredith Williamson. “I was afraid that we weren’t going to have a season at all ... I know it’s not what people were looking forward to, but I think it’s the best decision moving forward.”

Teams will still be allowed to practice and hold workouts as long as they are following the proper guidelines and safety procedures. 

“We’re going to take advantage of the extra time and make sure we’re ready for our season when it comes,” said Louisa volleyball coach Rachel Green.

There are still a lot of details to work out, including whether or not the shortened seasons will include a state tournament and what that will look like if they do, and schedules for the seasons still need to be made up. The VHSL executive committee will meet again on Aug. 24 to discuss those details and further finalize plans for all three sports seasons.

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