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VHSL considers playing spring sports through July

While Virginia High School League (VHSL) spring sports and activities were canceled for the 2019-20 school year, there is still hope for spring sports and academic activities after the current academic year ends and into the summer, according to a recent VHSL press release.

The league reported in a March 23 release that its spring sports and activities were canceled due to Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam declaring all schools in the commonwealth closed for the remainder of the school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The VHSL held a conference call Tuesday morning, March 24, with its VHSL Crisis Management Team to discuss all options relating to spring sports and academic activities after the current academic year ends and into the summer, the March 24 release stated. The VHSL Crisis Management Team unanimously recommended to delay any final action until May.

“While we recognize the importance sports has (to) our students and communities, the COVID-19 threat is real and people need to follow all the regulations and recommendations from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) CDC, Virginia Department of Health and the governor,” VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said in the release. “We must make that our No. 1 priority.”

He noted that 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 student-athletes or the public.

“This is extremely serious, and a lot has to happen before May for us to extend the season,” he said in the release. “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 March 24 release stated that in addition to discussing COVID-19, the Crisis Management Team discussed at length other obstacles that would have to be resolved before implementing any options for the spring sports season for any athletes.

The release concluded with the following list of frequently asked questions and their answers, highlighting the vital issues discussed by the team.

If any games are played during the summer, will there be a state champion recognized for the 2020 season? The answer is no. If there is an option to allow games to be played, there will be no 2020 VHSL champions recognized for spring sports.

With the first week of July currently being a total dead period for athletics activity, would schools be allowed to sponsor events? The VHSL Executive Committee would need to take action and provide a one-time waiver to allow teams to practice and play.

How would the Amateur Rule affect student-athletes who would want to participate in an extended season? Any athlete signing a professional contract — baseball has its draft and signing in the second week of June — will not be eligible.

Since the VHSL calendar currently has the spring sports seasons ending in June, would holding practices and playing games in July be a violation of the sports season rule? Yes. The executive committee will need to approve a revision of the published dates for the end of the spring season.

Will student-athletes have insurance if practices and games occur in July? There is a risk and insurance statement on the physical/participation form. Parents are required to certify that the student-athlete has insurance. Students will be required to have a new physical beginning July 1, and parents will certify on the new form.

Will students who have graduated meet enrollment/bonafide student rules? Students entering college and taking summer classes that are not part of any dual-enrollment situation are no longer in high school which would violate both these rules.

Will 2019-20 student physical forms (PPE) be effective for students to participate in July? June 30 is the expiration date for the PPE (14 months of coverage). Students will be required to have a new physical beginning July 1.