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High school sports practices may begin soon

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) has begun the process of bringing athletics back for the fall sports season after they were shut down along with schools in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In alignment with Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Virginia’s Return to School Plan” announced June 9, the VHSL Executive Committee cleared the way for schools to begin out-of-season practice activities beginning Monday, June 15, a recent VHSL release stated. By a majority vote taken June 10, the executive committee reinstated the Out-of-Season Practice Rule 27-7-1 and suspended the summer “dead period” for all athletic teams during the week of June 29-July 4. This change applies only to 2020.

The Thursday, June 11, release highlighted that in compliance with the governor’s plan, it is important to note that before any out-of-season activity can begin, all schools must submit health plans to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) outlining compliance with Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mitigation strategies.

Mike Edwards

“We are currently in the process of submitting our plans and look forward to getting started,” Fuqua School Athletics Director Mike Edwards said.

Rodney
Kane

Prince Edward County High School Athletics Director Rodney Kane reacted to the VHSL’s release by emphasizing the steps that remain before sports can restart, including a school division plan possibly involving the health department and school attorney.

“The plan must be submitted to VDOE for approval,” he said. “(The release is) not like a green flag to go.”

VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun explained in the release the thinking behind the executive committee’s decision-making.

“The VHSL Executive Committee believes that getting students back into some level of education-based activities will be supportive of their physical and mental health and well-being,” he said. “Allowing students and coaches the opportunity to begin out-of-season extracurricular activities and athletics will allow school communities the ability to begin moving in a positive direction.

“Our student-athletes have been out for over three months,” he continued. “Conditioning and acclimation will be critical as coaches and athletes prepare for the upcoming fall season.”

The release stated the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) was completing work on the VHSL Guidelines for Reopening Sports/Activities. The committee was finalizing the document to ensure it was in alignment with guidelines released by the governor’s “Return to School Plan” as well as the VDH and the CDC.

“Any decisions moving forward will be made in compliance with the governor’s orders and will continue to be made with the best interest of our student-athletes,” VHSL officials said in the release. “Safety will always be our No. 1 priority.”

Cumberland County High School Athletics Director Joseph Nowak noted VHSL will be having an executive meeting June 25.

“After that meeting we will have more guidance about what/how fall sports will look,” he said.