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Practice delayed until students return to school / August 20, 2020

When the Virginia High School League voted recently to attempt a return to athletic activities with the start of winter sports in December, student-athletes, and their parents and sports fans in general were excited to hear the news.

Fast forward a week or so since the VHSL’s vote and while many schools have returned some kids to the practice field – following the VHSL’s Phase 3 guidelines – many schools still face the task of returning athletes to structured conditioning and practice regimens.

A continuing challenge for Halifax High School sports – as well as other area high schools – continues to be finding opportunities to keep student-athletes engaged in their sports and physically and mentally fit to compete in them.

Halifax Comet’s athletic director Allen Lawter had said last month, he was hoping to possibly see some kids return to workouts in August or September. He noted then even those times would need to be revisited dependent upon COVID-19.

When he made those comments, the Halifax County School Board had voted on a hybrid plan to start the school year. The plan now is for the first nine weeks students will receive education through distance learning.

The nine-week term being implemented due to COVID-19 safety concerns as upticks of the virus were detected on a region level and community spread increase was being found. Lawter said until kids are in school either hybrid or full time, conditioning and practices will remain on hold.

“As long as we are on total distance learning, we will not have players working out,” Lawter wrote. “When we go to some sort of hybrid scheduling, we will look at starting workouts.”

When spring sports season was cancelled and schools closed back in March many high school student-athletes were keeping up there fitness levels by finding ways to workout at home and at local gyms, when they reopened. For student-athletes this will continue to be the plan at least for the next nine weeks.

Across the county line in Mecklenburg, Bluestone Barons varsity basketball and golf coach George Lancaster is facing some of the same hurdles. Mecklenburg also deciding to move to nine weeks of classes online for grades six and up. In its earlier plan Mecklenburg County students could either opt for all online or in person classes.

“Sure you want the kids to have a running program, run, run, run …,” Lancaster said. “But that’s not realistic to expect of a young person, just running for the next four months. Plus the season doesn’t start until Dec. 14,” the coach speaking of basketball.

Lancaster had hoped to get kids back in the gym, like Lawter, as soon as possible. With the nine week deal this may also cause the same delay for Lancaster for returning kids to sports.

Lancaster, who is a member of the VHSL’s opinion committee, said though this process can be frustrating administrators are having to be very careful in the way in which athletics reopen at their respective schools.

“I try to keep the kids engaged until we can get back to practice because you know, kids want to play. And I want to see that too but we must be mindful of the kid’s safety, always safety first.”

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