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Play ball - scholastic sports now have a calendar

SoVaNow.com / September 21, 2020
The Virginia High School League voted Thursday to approve its Championship+1 calendar, giving all high school student-athletes the opportunity to have a sports season – though with some adjustments.

Though the approval of the plan was all but expected, the challenges to finally get there have been numerous. Building on the Condensed Interscholastic Plan – a strategy development by the NCAA - the calendar represents how regular season, region and state champions contest will be played and determined.

Each sports season has its unique set of rules this year; and dependent upon how COVID-19 plays out over the next several weeks and months those dates/competitions could also be altered. The league in announcing the decision saying the plan, while not perfect, represents as close to perfect as the organization can be during a heath pandemic.

“We have received invaluable input from our school communities, parents, and students who say the physical and mental health benefits of getting our students back to a level of participation is extremely important,” said VHSL executive director John W. “Billy” Haun. “The Championships + 1 schedule will provide sports in all three seasons.

“The VHSL Executive Committee acknowledges that no plan is perfect. We are in unprecedented times in which we have been forced to create a temporary new normal. We understand this plan, or any plan, will not meet the expectations for those wanting a normal fall, winter, and spring sports season. This plan, however, will allow student-athletes and academic activity participants the opportunity of having a season and playing for a state championship.”

Halifax County High School athletic director, Allen Lawter said the approval of the “Championships + 1” calendar gives high school administrators and athletic directors the opportunity to move forward with better footing now that an outline is in place.

“We’re all glad that they made the decision so we know where we stand,” Lawter said, welcoming the decision.

In the condensed plan Season 1, winter sports - basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swimming, diving, and wrestling - would begin on Dec. 7 and play through Feb. 20. The first contest would be held Dec.21.

Season 2, fall sports, kickoffs on Feb. 4 and compete through May 1; the first contest is scheduled for Mar. 1. Cheerleading, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, and volleyball comprise fall sports.

Season 3, for spring sports (baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, and track and field) opens on April 12 and runs until June 26. First contest date for spring sports is April, 26.

Districts will develop their own schedules, having protocols put in place on how to handle situations where a game was affected by COVID-19. The C+1 calendar already remedies the situation of a game having to be canceled by allowing a “not played” versus a forfeit.

Districts/Regions will be responsible for implementing all guidelines and recommendations approved by the VHSL executive committee that are designed to decrease exposure to COVID-19 and protect student-athletes, coaches, officials, game administration and fans. The guidelines and recommendations developed in conjunction with VHSL staff, athletic directors/principals, SMAC, and coach advisory committees.

The calendar allows for each sport to hold a state championship. The plan permits one week of region playoffs and one week to hold championship semi-finals and finals.

All championship games are to be played within one day when possible. Only one team will advance from the region finals to the state games this year, thereby eliminating state quarterfinals.

For team sports with individualized events, qualifying for region and state competition this year will be limited.

“Schedule wise, we have pretty much done our schedule for the Championship+1 format,” Lawter said. “And it’s basically just a district only schedule.”

The VHSL using the 60-percent rule now in place to accommodate the shortened calendar, recommends that schools play all games within their districts if possible.

“Basketball I’ll probably try to pick up an extra two games,” Lawter continued. “Soccer we had to drop two district games just because of the limitations. But everybody else is pretty much district only.”

Lawter said as much as he wants to see the kids back on the field and court, getting sports back up and running this year will continue to be a challenge. He stated that the calendar is a good framework but with the fluidity of the coronavirus, “we may to do some tweaking.”

“With the situation we’re in, we’re going to have to wait till December to see what that holds,” Lawter said. “But overall we are glad to have the calendar in place.”



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