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More shots given as virus rages in Halifax

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Games tentatively scheduled as Comets seek to start play





Sports - temporarily - put on hold / November 19, 2020
The narrative of returning Halifax County Comet student-athletes to compete in their respective sports received a boost on Monday night and a minor setback from the Halifax County School Board.

Though the winter sports season was kept on the table for now, all workouts – that had just started over a week ago for certain sports – will now come to a halt. The decision to return to official conditioning sessions will get punted until Dec. 7, when the Halifax County School Board will revisit returning students to school.

The Comets had narrowly gained the opportunity to return to conditioning sessions on a 4-3 vote last month. But with COVID-19 levels rising in infections, hospitalizations and deaths across the state – Halifax County experiencing its own uptick in cases – and country the risk of returning kids and coaches to the courts and playing fields continued to weigh heavily on the minds of decision makers.

Varsity boys basketball coach Sterling Williams has guided a Comets basketball program that was fairly decent when he took the reins to becoming a powerhouse in VHSL Region 4 and a solid contender in VHSL state competition – the team has played in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament the past two years. Williams said balancing the safety of operating sports programs and the legit concerns of student-athletes during a pandemic is a delicate process.

“Right now the superintendent (Mark Lineburg) made a decision to end workouts just because numbers in the county were so high,” Williams said. “Not because we had an outbreak or anything like that.”

Williams said the positivity rate numbers in the county had reached a 10. ”We had told the school board when the positivity rates get too high we were going to suspend workouts.”

Williams said Lineburg made the decision yesterday before the school board meeting.

During the meeting Williams presented a report explaining how the Comets would hold basketball games at the high school if allowed to play in accordance with the VHSL’s Championships + 1 calendar.

The report’s guidelines are based on the high school’s COVID-19 Athletics Plan, local, state, federal guidelines and the VHSL’s Guidelines for return to Participation.

“Everybody listened and we had a good report,” Williams said. “But we’re going to be out until Dec. 7, the first day of tryouts.”

Williams said while his players have been conducting workouts and attempting to stay fit since the high school closed in March and during this time of online instruction, it’s not the same as having structured workouts on campus.

“It’s not the same as a coach-led practice or a coach-led workout,” Williams added. “I’ll give it to the guys they’ve been doing a decent job of working out and staying in shape. But you know the rigor of it is not going to be the same as if the coaches were in there.

“This is very much similar to college in the reference of time management. They have to be able to hold themselves accountable; they have to be able to self-discipline themselves to get in shape, stay in shape, and be ready before the season, on Dec. 7.”

While the kids are away from school, Williams said they will also have to do their part to protect themselves and each other. Williams and his coaching staff explained to the players that they and the coaches have responsibilities to uphold until a return to school.

“We talk to them about doing our part as players and coaches [which] is to kind of stay in your own bubble,” said Williams. “Not going out places around a bunch of people; not putting yourself in a situation to where you can contract the virus and then possibly bring it to teammates. So we talked to them about that.”

Ever since high school spring sports seasons were canceled in March, a steady chorus has been heard regarding players possibly going unrecruited by colleges due to not having a sports season to showcase their talents. This issue is especially concerning for seniors.

Williams said that student-athletes’ and parents’ concerns are very real. Getting recruited is something an athlete dreams of and works for – no matter if the college is a Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, junior college or community college, Williams said.

“James Smith was probably the best player the last five years and he got a D2 scholarship to Virginia State and he got that in April, March … early May; it was after the season; it was late,” Williams said. Smith, a standout forward for the Comets signed with VSU in 2017. “So they need this season to possibly get a scholarship.

“They put themselves in that position last season to receive it. They have been working their tails off to receive it.

“We just hope come Dec. 7 they are gonna get their opportunity to have a crack at it. We’re hopeful we’re going to have it. [The] VHSL is still playing and we’re hopeful we’re gonna have a season.”

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