High school sports are on hold for at least a little while longer.
The Virginia High School League Executive Committee met last week and decided to put off a decision about fall sports for at least another month or two and the athletic directors in the area agree with the move.
“I don’t think we need to make a decision quite yet,” Stonewall Jackson Athletic Director Mike Lenox said. “Things are always ever-changing especially with the (Virginia) Governor (Ralph Northam) possibly going to Phase Three… We don’t know what that’s going to look like yet. So I think they’re doing a pretty good job trying to get as much information as they can to make the right decision when the time is right. I know everybody is chomping at the bit, because they want something. I just don’t think that’s possible with the situation that we’re in right now.”
The VHSL plans to meet again in July and August but haa set no official dates for either month. High school sports have been on hold since March 13, when Northam announced schools were to be closed throughout the state. The spring season was eventually canceled.
Schools are waiting to hear what sports activities can look like in Phase Three. The VHSL has not released any guidelines for Phase Three. According to Northam’s Phase Three plan, social distancing is still in effect for sports, but he has given no other guidelines.
Warren County Athletic Director Ed Dike said once Northam gives more detailed guidelines for Phase Three, the VHSL and the schools can go from there.
“Once (Northam) makes a decision, everybody else can start doing what they want to do,” Dike said. “…Like I said two months ago, let this thing run its course and then lets start over fresh and everything can run normal – as normal as it’s going to be. I still don’t want to have to start something up and have to stop again.”
Strasburg Athletic Director Matt Hiserman said he likes the way the VHSL is approaching things even if it means putting things on hold a little while longer.
“They’re trying to do everything possible to have sports moving forward but also trying to do it within the guidelines that the state of Virginia is setting,” Hiserman said. “And not wanting to get sports started and then having to cut them back off again. I know they’re being careful and cautious in their steps, trying to see how things are going to go when they start up workouts and then put a final plan together.”
The first official practices for fall are scheduled to start on July 30 for football, golf and competition cheer with volleyball and cross country slated to begin Aug. 3. It appears likely the season will get pushed but how far back is the big question.
VHSL Executive Director Billy Haun threw out an idea at last week’s meeting as a possible scenario. The plan would involve switching seasons around. The winter season would start Dec. 13 and run to Feb. 20. The fall season would start Feb. 15 and end May 1, and spring would start April 12 and end June 26. It was not a proposal but an idea of a possible model the VHSL could look at.
Dike said the biggest problem he would have with the idea is that there is a big overlap between the fall and spring, which would mean football and soccer could be going on at the same time. He said even if the season doesn’t completely overlap, having football and soccer back-to-back could be problematic for most schools, which don’t have turf fields.
“There’s a huge overlap with football and the spring,” Dike said. “I’m not sure how you do that for people that don’t have astroturf fields. The only people around here that have astrotruf is Handley. Everybody else is running on grass. It’s going to be unbelievable to run soccer and football at the same time. Supposedly, it’s not going to be any overlap but it’s going to be close. They’re going to be tearing (the field) up from football and then soccer comes on and tears it up. It’s going to be really tough.”
Dike, Lenox and Hiserman agreed that they would like to see all three seasons happen even if it means having shorter seasons.
Dike said that while he’s not sure the idea to move the fall season to February and have the spring start in April will work. He likes that they are looking to do something different.
“This is something I talked about with Billy Haun a couple months ago, that this whole thing – you’ve got to think outside the box,” Dike said. “That’s the bottom line. Any sort of normal straight-forward thinking is out the door. You got to be thinking big and thinking about moving stuff, thinking about doing different things.”
Lenox said he’s preparing as if athletics might begin on time and doing his usual routine for late June/early July so he is prepared whenever sports are allowed to happen again.
Hiserman said that he’s already thinking about how they might handle football season if and when it does come back.
“We’re talking about if we did have football and we had spectators how would we limit social distancing in the stands and what we would do?” Hiserman said. “Those are things we’ll have to do once we find out when we’re going to start.”
Hiserman said the athletes that he’s seen around town seem excited to get back and naturally have a lot of questions about what’s going to happen.
“From the ones I’ve run into they obviously want to get back and get started,” he said. “They’re anxious. They want to get their season’s rolling. They want to know when they’re season’s going to happen, what order they’re going to be in and they’re anxious to get back and get going. I actually have a little different scenario because my daughter, (Paige, is) going to be a freshman and run cross country. It’s a little different. I have a dad aspect of it too, now. She’s been out and running and training and hoping that they get their season in.”