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Area ADs discuss options for high school sports

Public high school athletics directors (AD) in the area confirmed football is not an option this fall, and they favor starting 2020-21 athletic activities with a slightly delayed winter sports season, followed by fall sports running Feb. 15 to May 1 and a later spring season ending June 26.

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) recently announced its executive committee will vote July 27 on one of three recommended models, none of which include football as a fall option.

The release summarized the three models presented to the executive committee for the opening of fall sports/activities:

Model 1 — Leave all sports in their current season. Low and moderate contact risk sports that would be allowed are golf and cross country. High risk sports that would not be played are field hockey, football, volleyball and cheer. Fall activities that would be allowed include theatre.

Model 2 — Switch the fall and spring seasons. Low and moderate contact risk sports that would be allowed in the fall are track and field, tennis, soccer, baseball and softball. High risk sports that would not be played are boys/girls lacrosse.

Model 3 — Delay all VHSL sports and adopt the Condensed Interscholastic Plan. Leave all sports in the season where they are currently aligned.

Season 1 (Winter) Dec. 14-Feb. 20 (First contest date — Dec. 28)

Season 2 (Fall) Feb. 15-May 1 (First contest date — March 1)

Season 3 (Spring) April 12-June 26 (First contest date — April 26)

“I prefer the third one, pushing everything back to December,” Prince Edward County High School AD Rodney Kane said. “I would love to be able to move spring sports to the fall and just switch those two, but if we do and we have a shutdown like we did last spring, that’s going to affect the same athletes that it did last spring, and I would not want to do that to them again.”

Kane said he actually likes Model 1 except for football and volleyball not being played at all.

“Going ahead and doing cross country and golf, I think we could actually do those,” he said.

But he said he can guarantee schools are going to try to keep football if they can work it in at some point in the school year because it accounts for so much of their athletic department funding.

Buckingham County High School AD Russ Gowin said he and Buckingham administrators have voiced their support for Model 3.

“It will include all sports being played, with a slightly shortened season for each sport,” he said. “Gov. (Ralph) Northam will be the key to all sports being played this school year. Working together with the VHSL, we are excited about sports coming back soon and look forward to the VHSL decision on July 27th. “

Cumberland County High School AD Joseph Nowak said he believes the three different models all have their pros and cons.

“Each one provides different accommodations that would be beneficial to each of the VHSL member schools and ultimately look out for the safety of the students and coaches,” he said.

He stated Cumberland is leaning toward Model 3.

“The administration and myself all feel as though Model 3 allows for the best chance to get all three seasons in this school year, assuming that we have the green light to begin sports in December,” he said. “It also gives students a good two to three months of conditioning and workouts before the first season starts.”

Central High School AD Wallace Owen said Model 3 is probably his favorite, but he has questions about sports overlapping other sports and the late completion date for spring sports.

“Other unanswered questions concerning (Model) 3 include whether or not we will still have playoffs, and if so, what will be their format?” he said.

He noted he does not like Model 1 because it cancels football, volleyball and competitive cheer.

“A number of our coaches like (Model) 2, but my fear is that we might see a COVID-19 spike during the fall, causing us to lose baseball, softball, soccer and track for another year,” he said.

Randolph-Henry High School AD Christopher Holt said Model 3 makes the most sense to him on many levels.

“Students will have time to get acclimated to daily academic routines/rigor and also be allotted time to get back into ‘full go’ athletic condition over a period of three months,” he said. “After the July 27th announcement, we are ready to proceed with contingency plans for multiple scenarios that keep student and coach safety at the forefront of all decisions.”

Holt said he is excited any time he receives an update that involves playing again.

“Our coaches are ready, we have players that want to compete again,” he said. “We also certainly want to be safe, recognizing that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic.”