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It’s official: No high school sports this fall / July 30, 2020
High school sports will begin no sooner than December after Monday’s 34-1 vote by the Virginia High School League to delay the start of scholastic sports.

The VHSL board of directors selected Model 3, which would have the winter sports season running from Dec. 14-Feb. 20 with the first game to be played Dec. 28. Winter sports would include basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swim/dive and wrestling.

Fall sports would run from Feb. 15-May 1 with the first game played on March 1. Fall sports include cheer, cross country, field hockey, football, golf and volleyball.

The spring sports season would run from April 12-June 26 with the first game played on April 26. Spring sports include baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, and track and field.

Member schools will be using a condensed schedule to begin the re-opening.

John W. “Billy” Haun, VHSL’s executive director, said the league feels this solution is the best for everyone involved – with particular emphasis on student-athletes’ safety and health.

“The VHSL Executive Committee meeting in special session today voted (34-1-0) to move forward with Model 3 in its re-opening of sports and activities for the 2020-21 school year,” the statement read. “Model 3 delays all VHSL sports and activities until Dec. 14 and adopts the Condensed Interscholastic Plan. This model leaves all sports in the season where they are currently aligned.”

The possibility of high risk sports, basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, cheer, wrestling, and volleyball, being played will rely on Virginia moving past Phase 3 of the state’s recovery plan or allowing high risk sports to be played in Phase 3.

“We all understand the physical and mental health benefits of getting our students back to a level of participation. The Condensed Interscholastic 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,” said Haun.

“This plan also allows schools the opportunity to open the year and get school started and deal with issues such as schedules, academic plans, transportation, dealing with possible outbreaks of COVID in the school.

“The VHSL will continue to work closely with the best available information and directives provided by the governor, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Department of Education.”

Halifax County High School athletic director Allen Lawter recently said that he’d support a plan that tried to give all kids a fair shot at having a sport’s season. Model 3 was the only plan that even allowed this possibility.

With most athletes using modified conditioning regimens at best since school’s closed, now that a plan has been approved, high school athletic departments can begin the arduous task of planning how to return student-athletes to competition-ready form.

After Monday’s vote Lawter said he hoped to maybe be able to start some conditioning programs in August. If the date had to be pushed back until September, that wouldn’t be a problem either.

Lawter will be attending a Piedmont District meeting this week for further discussions. Model 3 basically has teams competing within their respective districts, while limiting travel to non-district games.

Lawter said while schools are eager to get student-athletes back for conditioning and training the VHSL will be issuing another set of guidelines and once those are set forth then, “… things can really begin to move forward.”

Former Comet head football coach Grayson Throckmorton retired last Friday and said Monday’s decision opens up a lot of possibilities and also presents challenges. “Looking at previous plans I personally felt like it was going to come down to option number three, which they voted in,” Throckmorton said.

Throckmorton said with no athletics scheduled throughout the fall in Model 3 it gives everyone a chance to see what will happen with the novel coronavirus. He expressed that even though no sports will start until December under the plan, having winter sports re-open sports would be somewhat natural – as those are the sports one normally attends during the winter.

“It gives you a little bit of a buffer time there from the start of school; whether it’s virtual or hybrid … Throckmorton said. “It gives you a little more time to figure things out. Whenever you’re not having a normal school day, it makes it tough to have athletics especially with team sports.”

Throckmorton mentioned travel arrangements, scheduling of games, etc. are all important components of what must happen to have success in the model. He also said athletic departments have to be careful to follow the guidelines the VHSL puts out because of liability issues.

Throckmorton said as football and really all sports move forward, all you can do is do your best to prepare and remain safe.

“One of the biggest challenges will be how you’re gonna prepare between now and Feb. 15, starting official practice. Because there are so many restrictions and stipulations set forth that you do have to adhere to. And you really have to adhere to them very closely because of liability issues and things like that with the coronavirus,” he said.

Still Throckmorton sees kids returning to the courts and fields to be a great thing for the student-athletes, coaches, fans and all involved. Saying sports are sports and athletes will get it in when they can, using football as the example.

“That’s going to be the biggest hurdle I think; not so much playing football Feb. 15,” Throckmorton said. “Sports are sports, you can do that. It will be a little cooler which would be a nicer thing I believe.

Throckmorton said football general starts in August when it’s warm and ends up in November, December so the move will just be a reverse of the season weather.

“It’ll just be a little bit on the opposite end but in my opinion it’s the right call.”

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