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VHSL leaves door open for abbreviated spring sports season

SoVaNow.com / March 26, 2020

The Virginia High School League’s Crisis Management Team met via conference call Tuesday to determine the outcome of spring sports programs that have not been able to begin their seasons due to the COVID-19, Coronavirus pandemic and reached an agreement to delay a decision until May.

The CMT said it took many factors into consideration but the overriding factor was the safety and health of the student-athletes, fans, parents and teachers. VHSL executive director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said the decision is the correct one.

We must make that our number one priority,” said Haun. “The Crisis Management team overwhelmingly felt a decision on an extension to the spring sports season should be put on hold until May. Any options for the spring sports season will require that COVID-19 is no longer a threat and poses no health risks to our student-athletes or the public.

“This is extremely serious and a lot has to happen before May for us to extend the season. In every situation, every decision we make has been, and will be made in the best interest of our student-athletes and public safety.”

The crisis team also looked at obstacles that would have to be overcome before any adjusted season could take place. The VHSL included in its release several “Frequently Asked Questions” that seem to be hot on the minds of the stakeholders involved.

Most of the questions revolve around could a summer session be possible and would a state champion be crowned – the answer to the state champion question being, no.

Questions also arose over the Amateur Rule as well as concerns about students entering college to play and still participating with a spring sports team, which would be a violation.

With Gov. Ralph Northam closing schools for the remaining academic calendar and ordering various other directives such as for non-essential businesses, the window for spring sports is quickly closing.

Halifax County Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg said he was pleased with the VHSL decision as it still leaves open the door for spring sports. Lineburg said they are looking at various ways to help not only senior student-athletes but also just seniors in general enjoy some of the events that seniors usually enjoy as they prepare to graduate.

Lineburg was quick to point out that regardless of what’s decided it is being done in the best interest of those involved and their safety and health.

“Well, I think it’s good they waited to decide,” said HCHS Athletics Director Alan Lawter. “That way we know there is some hope that maybe these kids will get that uniform on one more time.

“None of us knows what’s going to happen; none of us know how long this thing is going to last. Right now Hope is one of the biggest things we have to help us get through this and I certainly hope that we have an opportunity for our kids to play one or two or more depending on time. But at least they’ll get to suit up, we’ll get to honor our seniors through competition.”

If a season can take place Lawter said it definitely wouldn’t resemble a normal season but would afford kids the opportunity to play. While some VHSL rules would need to be adjusted Lawter said it was workable.

“Whatever they do will be very abbreviated as to what we’re normally used to’” he continued. “I’m glad they decided to wait to see where this thing is going to go; that gives them five, six weeks. There’s still some questions that have to be answered by VHSL, rule wise. For the most part that can be handled I think.

“Overall I’m glad the VHSL just didn’t make a decision to just say we’re not going to do anything,”Lawter said. “We are stressing with our coaches to keep in touch with their players.”

Senior soccer player Mandy Lewis said she too is happy the VHSL is not completely closing the door of spring athletics after reading what the VHSL decided yesterday.

“When I read this, I was excited because I honestly think this is good thing because our season might not be quite over yet,” Lewis said. “I just hope this COVID-19 virus goes away so all of this can happen. I want to be able to step on the field one last time with my Comet jersey on; so it would be awesome if they decide we can play in May.”

Comets girls tennis coach Donna Hudson said, “When you have been part of a team, you know how much you gain from being with a group of athletes doing something that thrills you, and it’s hard to see your season delayed, knowing that delay could get longer and longer.

“We’ll stick together and boost each other up the best we can, because that’s what a team does. We know our challenges are minimal compared to the sacrifices others are making - those who are suffering directly with the virus, our medical teams, our students sent home from colleges, those isolated from their families... so we will just try to stay positive, try to stay ready to compete back on courts, and keep on praying for this world.”

Halifax varsity basketball coach Sterling Williams said he too feels for the senior athletes as well as just the senior class. The Comets lost in the VHSL Class-4 state basketball quarterfinals, but had they won, the virus outbreak would have cancelled any remaining season they had.

“The seniors that are missing their spring sports is heart breaking, I couldn’t imagine, but all are missing prom, senior banquets, senior photos, things that underclassmen and people who’ve experienced it, take for granted,” Williams expressed. “While sports are great, don’t misunderstand my love for sports, it’s the relationships you build with the people that are part of that team, that last on after the game clock stops ticking.

“The number of points scored in each game, the number of runs batted in, bases stolen, innings pitch, total rebounds, goals scored, etc., all that stuff will be forgotten, but the memories with your people will last a lifetime. And that’s what the seniors are missing out on the most, those memories.”

Lawter said he understands what the coaches and students are expressing. Saying the school system was doing its best to make sure the seniors have what has always had, senior memories.

“We know they are only this age once; these seniors will only be seniors once and we know how important it is,” Lawter said. “We know how important it is and it’s just not athletics but it’s some other stuff that goes on around senior stuff, as far as graduation, you know the senior events that took place as we were winding down school.

“Graduation? I don’t think the doors been shut we’re going to have a ceremony. Just don’t know when or how. And then we’re going to try to do some other senior events, the question is when.”



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