No sports until December; VHSL votes to delay start of season due to COVID-19

The VHSL voted for a condensed (but complete) schedule by a tally of 34-1 in a special executive session on Monday.
The VHSL voted for a condensed (but complete) schedule by a tally of 34-1 in a special executive session on Monday.
Updated: Jul. 27, 2020 at 11:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Yes, Virginia, there will be football, but it will happen in the spring.

The Virginia High School League opted to delay the start of the sports schedule by a vote of 34-1 in a special executive session on Monday morning.

The VHSL presented three plans for the reopening of sports last week, and Model 3 was the overwhelming favorite.

In that model, all of the sports are still played, but in a condensed and altered timeline.

Albemarle HS Athletic Director Deb Tyson says, “There’s no place to land where it’s going to meet everybody’s need, but I think, unequivocally, it seemed that most people were really happy about Model Three.”

The other two models necessitated some sports getting cut from the schedule.

“We were cut short this year, and it stung a little bit to not be able to play,” says Albemarle girls soccer coach Amy Sherrill. “Especially for your seniors, to have that cut short.  To know that there is something in the works, and we will get a season, I’m very hopeful that it all comes to fruition.”

Albemarle football coach Brandon Isaiah says, “To have the opportunity to still play football, even if it is later in the year, in the spring, obviously, there are going to be a lot of challenges, but for my kids’ sake, it’s a good feeling for me, because it’s something positive for us to sit on, as we move into this new year.”

Winter sports like basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swim/dive, and wrestling will take place December 14 – February 20.

Fall sports like cheer, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, and volleyball have the biggest change, as they have been moved to February 15 – May 1.

Spring sports like baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, and track & field will take place April 12 – June 26.

VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun says those dates are subject to change, if conditions change, and the plan is predicated on Virginia remaining in at least in Phase III.

“We all understand the physical and mental health benefits of getting our students back to a level of participation,” says Dr. Haun. “The Condensed Interscholastic Plan Leaves open the opportunity to play all sports in all three seasons if Virginia moves beyond Phase III and/or Phase III guidelines are revised and High Risk Activities are allowed. This plan also allows schools the opportunity to open the year and get school started and deal with issues such as schedules, academic plans, transportation, dealing with possible outbreaks of COVID in the school.”

VHSL Executive Committee Member Robert Curd adds, “I think that extra time allows us to do it safely, but more importantly, that really allows us to get school started. We haven’t done that yet. We haven’t gotten school started, we don’t know exactly what that’s gonna look like.”

The VHSL will hold another executive meeting on July 24th to discuss postseason options for all sports.

“I don’t know if it’ll be playoffs,” says Dr. Haun. “I heard people say, ‘Skip the playoffs, we just want kids to play as many games as they can.’  That’s what’s important to them.  But then I’ve heard other people say, ‘Playoffs are important, and we want to have that.”

Curd adds, “We’ll know more clearly by the end of August, but I know that’s certainly our goal, is to try to figure out a format that will work.”

Haun says spectators would be allowed to attend, but at a maximum of 250, and that number counts everyone at the venue, including the student-athlete participants.

Sports with a large number of competitors in one event, like cross country, would be hit especially hard.

Tyson says, “Two-hundred fifty, in an (Albemarle) Invitational as we know it, is like, three teams.  It’s going to be a new way to look at things.  We’ll do the best we can.  Educators are great problem solvers.  We’ll put our heads together, and do the best we can to create an experience for these kids that they can be proud of, and take with them as they move on.”

“The VHSL will continue to work closely with the best available information and directives provided by the Governor, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE),” says Haun.

For the coaches, they say the most important this is playing, no matter what the calendar says.

“It’s gonna be different,” says Isaiah. “A little chilly outside.  If you love playing sports, and you love competing, and I selfishly love being around the kids and my coaches, so just having the opportunity to do that now, that’s exciting news for me.”

Sherrill adds, “We’ll probably tweak a few things, but ultimately it doesn’t change too much, thankfully, so we’ll continue to train and plan on defending our state title, like we would usually.”

Two other models for reopening sports had been discussed by the VHSL.

In Model One, all Fall sports would have been canceled, except cross country and golf.

In Model Two, the Fall and Spring seasons would have switched places, except high-contact sports like soccer and lacrosse, which could not be played in the fall.

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