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Fears realized as fall, winter high school sports canceled / November 18, 2020
Word circulated quickly throughout Mecklenburg County last week that Bluestone High School wouldn’t be holding a basketball or volleyball season this year. By weeks’ end the conversation had grown to include cancellation of all fall or winter athletics.

The Mecklenburg County School Board Monday night voted unanimously to cancel all fall and winter sports seasons at Bluestone and Park View high schools. Trustees accepted a report prepared by the school board’s athletics committee that recommended the fall and winter seasons be canceled.

The schools were already operating on an altered sports schedule — the Virginia High School League’s recently adopted Championships + 1 calendar — in hopes of conducting fall and winter sports.

“In conjunction with the Mecklenburg County School Board and the School Board’s Athletics Committee, the decision has been made that Mecklenburg County’s secondary schools will not be participating in winter or fall sports,” Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols wrote on social media. “A decision will be made at a later date concerning spring sports. This was a very difficult decision to make as MCPS is very anxious to support our student athletes and the sports programs.

“However, recent decisions by the VHSL and Department of Health that place substantial responsibilities for health regulations to battle COVID, and significantly limit the number of persons allowed in any sporting event make it financially impossible to support our sports programs during these two seasons.”

School Board members Ricky Allgood and Lindell Palmer each made comments regarding the decision. Each expressed that though the decision to cancel sports was difficult, in light of COVID-19 it wasn’t a hard decision to come by.

The athletics committee said in its report that school athletic directors and administrators also had concerns that since kids weren’t attending school on campus, should sports be taking place.

“[I] did have a few parents call concerning sports,” Allgood said. ‘I can feel the pain.”

Allgood said a lot of parents and students were hoping for possible scholarship offers, especially student-athletes in their senior year. “I assured them this was something we had not taken lightly. They were not mad, they were just frustrated.".

Though financials associated with returning to athletics were considered, board trustees stated the health of all stakeholders was the determining factor. With spectator numbers reduced from 250 to 25 in recent days due to an increase in coronavirus cases across Virginia and the U.S., any decision to play just wouldn’t hold water.

“Until something is done about this pandemic, it’s not much we can do,” Allgood said.

Former Bluestone principal and varsity and jayvee basketball coach, Palmer said as bad as it feels for student-athletes, parents and fans, it’s something that can’t be helped.

“We are just at a point where we can’t do it and it’s a hurting thing,” Palmer said.

Bluestone athletics director Justin Kirkland said he, too, was disappointed but is holding out hope for a possible spring sports season. The athletics committee, in its recommendation report, indicated that spring sports would be revisited in February when students are set to possibly return to their respective campuses.

“It was a very difficult decision to make, but the right one,” Kirkland said. “Student-athletes’ health, safety, and well-being are our paramount concern, and this decision was made with those factors at the forefront of our minds.

“We remain optimistic that, with improved circumstances regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, we will be able to participate in spring sports. I am very thankful for everyone’s understanding, support, and patience during this difficult time.”

Bluestone varsity boys basketball coach George Lancaster is a Virginia High School League Hall of Fame basketball coach. He is currently number four among all coaches and No. 1 among active coaches. Lancaster also serves on the VHSL’s coaches’ advisory committee.

Lancaster said the entire sports community — at all levels — has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic. Lancaster does see light at the end of the tunnel, though.

“Mr. Whitten (varsity assistant coach - basketball operations) made the announcement,” Lancaster said. “He and I met with Coach Kirkland on last Monday. We made the announcement and of course the kids were disappointed. But they had a good workout,” Lancaster said.

Lancaster said he feels for all the student-athletes affected by the decision. He expressed his hurt for his senior players. Yet he also explained that kids these days are a lot more knowledgeable and sophisticated in their thought processes than they get credit for.

“How would I react as a high school junior or senior particularly to have no season and when you think about it, I would have been very, very disappointed” Lancaster said. “I probably at that stage would have become disenchanted with the evolvement of things that happen in your life.

“But now that I am certainly 60 years removed from my senior year in high school my thoughts are different and I must say that the kids today are much more mature, they are realistic, they are thankful for their opportunities than the people of yester-year.

“The good thing is there’s hope, there’s help on the way (promising vaccines),” said Lancaster. “By Valentine’s Day I think we’ll be on the road to recovery in the health sense of it. Whether we recover financially in a short period of time … I know that the administration is moving in the right direction as best they can for their overall situation.”

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