By Brian Hoffman – Sports Editor
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.
“For what we know now, I think this is the best we can do,” said Lord Botetourt athletic director Chuck Pound. “Things could change before December.”
Pound indicated the Blue Ridge District athletic directors will soon have a meeting, most likely virtual, to discuss scheduling and other issues related to the VHSL announcement of Monday.
James River athletic director Vincent Wyatt also feels Model 3 is the best choice.
“I believe that Model 3 is the safest way to ensure that all sports are able to have a season,” said Wyatt. “With everything starting in December, it gives the state of Virginia more time to get a hold on COVID and ensure a safe return to athletics and activities. Though the seasons being condensed may not sit well with some, I truly believe that this is the way to go whereas in Model 1 or 2, there would be teams that would have to cancel their seasons all together. We all truly miss sports, but the number one priority has to be the safety of our student-athletes, coaching staff, and our fans.”
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.
“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.”
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.