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Out-of-season practice cancelled

South Boston News / May 18, 2020

A week after voting to cancel all spring sports, the Virginia High School League took up another hot-button topic in high school sports — “Out of Season Practice Guidelines.”

For Halifax County High School student-athletes — and for all other member schools throughout Virginia — the VHSL has said there will be no sanctioned, out of season practices for any sports program until schools reopen.

The VHSL’s Director of Communications, Mike McCall, said in a Friday press release that until Gov. Ralph Northam reopens schools, all bets are off. He continued to assert what the organization has said since the COVID-19 virus began affecting daily life in America, that all decisions will be made in the best interest of the student-athletes health and safety as well as all stakeholders.

“Every decision will be made in compliance with those orders and will continue to be made with the best interest of our student-athletes and the public. Safety will always be our number one priority,” McCall said in the statement.

McCall was brief but direct that basically the VHSL is like any other business in the state right now, having to follow a set of guidelines that must be adhered to. The director noted the VHSL offices had received several inquiries.

“The VHSL has received numerous inquiries from school divisions regarding out of season practice guidelines for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19.

“The VHSL will continue to follow all protocols and guidelines issued from the governor, CDC, and the Virginia Department of Health. At the present time this means out of season practice and all activities this summer are cancelled until further notice. The current relaxing of the governor’s stay at home order applies only to businesses. Schools remain closed and in-school facility use is off limits.

“Once the governor declares schools can re-open and guidelines are provided for the reopening, the VHSL will work with the executive committee to draw up protocols and guidelines for resuming athletic activities. We ask every member school to support the Governor’s directives and the DOE during this time.

“Every decision will be made in compliance with those orders and will continue to be made with the best interest of our student-athletes and the public. Safety will always be our number one priority.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations, which the VHSL is a member of, posted a news article on Wednesday regarding out-of-season practices. Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS executive director, said a time to return to high school sports remains uncertain. The NFHS serves 19,500 high schools nationwide and over 12 million student-athletes.

“At the high school level, sports and other activity programs will most likely not return until schools re-open. High school sports and performing arts are education-based programs and complete the learning process on a day-to-day basis. As such, academics during the school day and sports and other activities after school are inseparable,” Niehoff said.

“One of the challenges to solving the crystal ball of high school sports and activities this fall is the uncertainty of the spread of the virus as states begin to re-open this month. The NFHS will continue to work with its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee on an ongoing basis to provide the most updated information.”

“With the non-negotiable tenet of safety for student activity participants, expect every avenue to be pursued so that students can be involved in football, soccer, volleyball, field hockey, speech, debate, music and many other school activities this fall.”

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