Out-of-Season Practices Allowed

RCHS, PMHS Developing Plans That Follow Safety Guidelines

In alignment with Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Virginia’s Return to School Plan” announced on Tuesday of last week, the Virginia High School League Executive Committee has cleared the way for schools to begin out-of-season practice activities on Monday.

By a majority vote taken last Wednesday, 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 through July 4. This only applies to 2020. The news was shared in a statement sent out by the VHSL on Thursday.

The VHSL has not yet ruled how and when the fall sports season might begin for football, volleyball, golf, cross country and competitive cheerleading. The VHSL Executive Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, June 25, to discuss fall sports.

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 outlining compliance with Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mitigation strategies.

“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,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun.

“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,” continued Haun. “Conditioning and acclimation will be critical as coaches and athletes prepare for the upcoming fall season.”

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

The athletic directors for the two local high schools, Parry McCluer and Rockbridge County, both commented on Friday about this news. Both of them said they will be working with their staffs on putting together plans to get their teams back to practicing, taking precau tions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“You really can’t start anything until all school divisions have a plan in place for mitigating the virus,” PM athletic director Mike Cartolaro said.

Before any teams start practicing, Cartolaro said, the school is focusing on getting ready for graduation, which will be shown next Wednesday night, June 24, at Hull’s Drive-In.

Cartolaro said he plans to discuss this week with other PM administrators the plan for sports practices. “The next step is we’re waiting to hear from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to see what we can do,” he said. “It’s ambiguous right now.”

Precautions taken will include social distancing, cleaning and being careful with the sharing of equipment. In football, for example, the players would wear gloves since many players touch the ball.

“Everyone is chomping at the bit to get started, but we need to be cautious,” Cartolaro said. RC athletic director Rick

RC athletic director Rick Lollis, who his retiring at the end of this month before former Stuarts Draft High School head boys basketball coach Mike Gale takes over as athletic director, said that, he and other administrators will meet with athletic trainer Courtney Simpkins and the school’s head nurse, Heidi Sheltman. Lollis said he thought it would be at least a couple of weeks before any teams at RC started practicing.

“We’ve got to designate areas where we can practice,” Lollis said. He made a list of items necessary to keep the practice areas safe, including Clorox disinfecting wipes, disinfectant spray and hand sanitizer. All door handles and equipment will be wiped down after workouts, and no personal items will be stored at RC. Teams will avoid sharing personal water bottles, water fountains will not be used, and locker rooms won’t be available due to the inability to practice social distancing in those small spaces.

Lollis is also suggesting student-athletes and coaches wear face masks when they can’t practice social distancing. There will be a thermometer scan available. Workout clothes are to be washed after each use, either at school or at home. He recommends that each student-athlete has an updated VHSL physical form completed before workouts begin.

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. Safety will always be the number one priority, the VHSL stated.

The News-Gazette

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