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Tentative calendar calls for shortened scholastic season / August 27, 2020

The Virginia High School League met on Monday to continue discussions surrounding reopening high school athletics and developed a draft schedule — the “Championships + 1” calendar — for fall, winter and spring sports.

VHSL executive director, John W. Billy Haun said many hours have been spent producing the calendar which keeps 60 percent of contests in place for all sports. The draft uses input from the various stakeholders — coaches, athletic directors/principals, and superintendent representatives — from their respective regions over the past 10 days to accomplish the task.

“We appreciate the hard work and feedback our region athletic directors, coaches, principals, and other representatives provided to our staff during region meetings and through our coaches advisory committees,” Haun said. “Our newly formed Student Advisory Committee also provided invaluable feedback as well. The VHSL is fortunate to have a dedicated group of school administrators and coaches who are working tirelessly during these unprecedented times on behalf of all students, as we plan for athletics and academic activities for the upcoming year.”

The VHSL’s current model reflects the Condensed Interscholastic Plan, which moves the start of sports to December. This plan was the only option of three that made for the possibility of having all sports being able to compete in light of the coronavirus.

Basketball practice would begin on Dec. 7 with the first game on Dec. 21. Region playoffs run five days, from Feb. 8 to Feb. 13 and VHSL state semifinals and the championship game would be held on Feb. 16 and Feb. 20, respectively.

The balance of the winter sports: gymnastics, indoor track, swim & dive, wrestling, and sideline cheer begin practice a week later than basketball, Dec. 21. The first contest for these sports are scheduled for Dec. 28, with the exception of cheer which starts Jan. 6, 2021.

Looking at fall sports, football would have six games and begin practice on Feb. 4. The first game is scheduled for Feb. 22, with the regions from April 7-April 17. Football is the only sports that’s afforded two rounds of regional playoffs in the draft calendar.

Volleyball with 12 matchs, golf (8), cross country (6), and field hockey with 10 games would start practice on Feb. 15 and competition cheer kicks off practice the same day as football — cheer is limited to three contests — with competition following on March 1, for all.

Spring sports across the board boasts the most games allowed. Baseball and softball can schedule 12 games, soccer and tennis 10 each, lacrosse and track & field can have nine matches during the regular season.

All spring sports start practice on April 12, and have first contest on April 26. Tennis is the exception beginning matches on April 21.

The plan lets teams that didn’t make region competition play an extra game on the season, as long as the games take place before the regional playoff end date.

Yet with all the best of planning, a lot still needs to happen to see some of the high risk sports like football and basketball being able to play. A main issue: Virginia is still in Phase 3 of its recovery model for COVID-19 and is not allowing high risk sports to take place under Phase 3.

High risk sports - basketball, field hockey, football, boys & girls lacrosse, cheer, wrestling, and volleyball – being played is dependent upon Virginia moving past Phase 3 or allowing high risk sports to be played in Phase 3.

Allen Lawter, Halifax County High School athletic director said members of the Piedmont District were meeting yesterday. He noted Championships+1 would be discussed.

“I have a district meeting this morning,” Lawter wrote on Wednesday. “Of course the topic of the schedule draft is on the agenda.”

Lawter expressed that the draft was on par with what they — ADs and coaches — expected. He said he hope the calendar would come to fruition, “We just pray that things are to the point that we can begin athletes.”

The local sports base will also be happy to know that jayvee sports are currently in the mix for the Comets. “We do anticipate jayvee playing,” Lawter wrote.

Haun reminded stakeholders the draft calendar was just that, a work in progress, and not a final product. The director saying producing a final sports calendar wasn’t the purpose of Monday’s meeting.

“I want to be clear that this work session was not intended to produce a final plan” Haun stated. “The purpose of the work session was to provide a draft to the Executive Committee for the FY2021 sports and academic season and for the process of building a plan for regular season and postseason. The various staff meetings with coaches, athletic directors, principals, and superintendent representatives discussed at length the challenges, including health, safety, and financial considerations of implementing any schedule options.”

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