Fall sports players, coaches, parents and fans were hoping for the news they have been awaiting for weeks.
Instead, The VHSL called a timeout.
The VHSL Executive Committee met in special session Thursday, June 25 for the purpose of discussing Fall Sports. Since May, indications had been there would be more definitive guidelines on when fall sports and activities at the VHSL member schools would resume after the meeting in Charlottesville.
Fall sports and activities include football, volleyball, cross country, golf, competitive cheer and dance.
With the Commonwealth currently in Phase 2 and moving to Phase 3 in the reopening process on July 1st, VHSL staff did not bring forth any recommendations for fall athletic schedules. The Executive Committee did vote to hold additional meetings in July and August as more information becomes known.
“All our efforts are working towards advocating for the opening of sports and activities in a safe and reasonable way,” VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said Thursday. “As we move forward, it would not be reasonable to release at this time a fall schedule or calendar until we learn more about future Phases.”
“We are committed to getting this right and getting our students participating in activities. I think we can make a much better informed decision once we have more parameters and possible restrictions.”
Haun had indicated earlier this week the VHSL would consider various possibilities, including whether there would be a season at all. He cautioned that Phase 3 in the stare’s K-12 school guidelines still calls for social distancing and other safety measures to avoid spreading of the coronavirus. He pointed out you can’t play games if you’re having to deal with social distancing. He acknowledged there is no determination at this point how long Phase 3 could last. Guesses have ranged from a few weeks to several months, especially after several states have seen spikes in cases after their recent reopening.
Another major concern, should athletics resume, is how spectators will be allowed to attend games. Football, which is the primary revenue source for most school athletic departments, could be hard pressed financially to produce the necessary income if spectators are limited. Factors such as paying officials, stadium staff and high transportation costs for teams to attend games could prove prohibitive in the whole scheme of things.
Little has moved forward since the VHSL allowed schools to return to limited workouts earlier this month. Practice fields are mostly vacant as schools must first submit plans for reopening and the steps they will take to ensure the safety of players and coaches. The process is tedious.
High school football was originally scheduled to begin practice the first week of August, with volleyball scheduled to begin in late-July. Additionally, high school basketball camps have already been postponed or cancelled, as have volleyball summer camps and tournaments. Open gyms for basketball, typically well under way, can’t operate. Needless to say, it’s difficult to play football, volleyball or basketball if social distancing guidelines prohibit two players touching the ball in succession.
For players, coaches and spectators, the wait continues.