What everyone expected is now official. There will be no fall high school sports this year, at least not in the fall.
The VHSL Executive Committee, meeting in a special session Monday morning, voted 34-1 to move forward with Model 3 in its re-opening of sports and activities for the 2020-21 school year. Model 3 delays all VHSL sports and activities until December 14 and will adopt the Condensed Interscholastic Plan. This model leaves all sports in the season where they are currently aligned.
The next high school action is now scheduled for December, beginning with winter sports. Practices are scheduled to begin on December 14 with the first games on December 28 and the end of the season will be February 20. Winter sports include basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swimming and wrestling,
Fall sports will follow the winter sports, with practices scheduled to begin on February 15. Games will be played from March 1 through May 1 and sports will include football, volleyball, golf, cross country, cheerleading and field hockey.
Spring sports won’t begin practicing until April 12, with games beginning April 26 and running through June 26. This will include baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, tennis and track and field.
“We all understand the physical and mental health benefits of getting our students back to a level of participation,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” 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.”
A future meeting will be held to decide if championship playoffs will be held for the high school seasons. Post-season competition may be eliminated, or scaled down, but that has not yet been determined.
Also, as long as Virginia is in Phase 3 there will a limit of 250 people at any VHSL event. That includes players, coaches, officials and game personnel, so a limited number of fans will be included. With a sport like football, the total number of fans could be fewer than half of the 250 people allowed.
“I think it’s best for all student athletes involved,” said Salem High athletic director Chris King. “It gives everyone an opportunity to have a season at some point during the ’20-21 school year, keeping the safety of everyone first and foremost.”
Glenvar athletic director Richard McElwee agrees.
“There are still a lot of questions but at least we have something to look forward to,” he said. “No sports are left out, and they put a carrot out there. We really needed something positive.”
Of course this means the end to any chance of fall football. The Salem players have been doing conditioning drills and will continue to do so.
“Our Salem Spartans have had a great attitude in what has been a tough situation,” said Salem coach Don Holter. “They show up every day and we’ve had good numbers. That comes from great parents and community, and I’m extremely proud to be their coach. You can only control what you can control.”
Glenvar coach Kevin Clifford noted that everyone is in the same boat.
“This is just something we all have to deal with,” he said. “We will adapt, adjust and work hard. There are a lot of senior athletes last year and collegiate players this year that won’t get to play or didn’t get to play. So, in the bigger scheme of things, I’m happy that we get to play, especially for our seniors.”
Haun indicated in his post-meeting press conference that the dates announced Monday are not “etched in stone.” If the state relaxes restrictions, or increases them, that would have an effect on the model.
“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),” he said.