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VHSL approves out-of-season practice / June 15, 2020

The Virginia High School League on Wednesday set guidelines for out-of-season practice.

Before any sports program can begin practice, the school will have to submit a health plan to the Virginia Department of Education that outlines health plans for returning students to practice safely. The health plan will have to meet the requirements listed in Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Virginia’s Return to School Plan” that was released Tuesday.

“In alignment with the governor’s announced on Tuesday, June 9, the VHSL executive committee has cleared the way for schools to begin out-of-season practice activities beginning Monday, June 15. By a majority vote taken on Wednesday, June 10, the executive committee reinstated the Out-of-Season Practice Rule 27-7-1 and suspended the Summer “dead period” for all athletic teams during the week of June 29-July 4. This only applies to 2020,” Mike McCall, VHSL’s director of communications wrote in the release.

“In compliance with the governor’s plan, it is important to note that before any out-of-season activity can begin, all schools must submit health plans to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) outlining compliance with Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mitigation strategies.”

VHSL Executive Director John W. “Billy” Haun said with student-athletes missing three months of conditioning, getting them back in competitive shape, physically and mentally, will be imperative.

“The VHSL executive committee believes that getting students back into some level of education-based activities will be supportive of their physical and mental health and well-being,” said Haun. “Allowing students and coaches the opportunity to begin out-of-season extracurricular activities and athletics will allow school communities the ability to begin moving in a positive direction.

“Our student-athletes have been out for over three months. Conditioning and acclimation will be critical as coaches and athletes prepare for the upcoming fall season.”

The VHSL sports medicine advisory committee (SMAC) is completing work on the VHSL Guidelines for Reopening Sports/Activities. The committee is finalizing the document to ensure it is in alignment with guidelines released by the governor’s “Return to School Plan” as well as the VDH and the CDC.

Any decisions moving forward will be made in compliance with the governor’s orders and will continue to be made with the best interest of our student-athletes. Safety will always be our number one priority, the release concluded.

Halifax County High School’s athletics director Allen Lawter had just commented prior to the decision to allow practices that he was looking forward to beginning work on how HCHS sports can begin again. The announcement that schools could resume practice so quickly came as somewhat of a surprise to Lawter as well as other athletic directors at various schools.

“Actually an AD called me right when that thing came out and asked if we have a plan,” Lawter said. And I was like no because we had no advanced warning of needing this plan. So, I talked to (HCHS principal) Mr. (Michael) Lewis that day right after it came out and he and I and some other people are going to get together and come up with our plan to get these kids back to doing something – and right now I can’t tell you what.

“Right now everybody is just sifting through that 136-page document. So everybody is sifting through that. And every time you talk to somebody it’s like, ‘“Did you see this in it? Naw, I haven’t gotten there.’”

“Long story short, we’re going to get together next week and come up with our plan,” Lawter said. “And then we’re going to also probably submit it to the school board office to make sure that they’re okay with it.

Lawter saying that everyone needs to be on board with the plan before it can be implemented.

“We want to make sure everybody is on board with what we are going to try to do. You know we may confer with a few coaches of what can you do to follow such and such guidelines. You know those types of things so it may take us a couple of days to come up with it. But we’re gonna get the kids out there as quick as we can for coaches that want to start.

Lawter said some variations for certain sports will be necessary as each sport has different challenges to overcome.

“We do not know to what extent, but we feel like we can at least start some conditioning. But we’re still gonna have to follow certain guidelines that have been set up by the state.

“You know, it may not be an ‘across the board’ as different sports have different challenges. And it will be an ongoing process as we go. One way or the other it will be ongoing – which you can either do more or say we’ve got to back off …

“It will be a collaboration of all of it,” Lawter explained. “There’s still a lot of unanswered questions. Unanswered questions about competition. You know when will competition begin?

“So, not a lot I can say right now other than we’re gonna start working on our plan. I’m hoping we start working on our plan this week and get that done as quickly as we can and get it approved. And then coaches can begin to get kids slowly back out there.”

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