VHSL Developing Fall Sports Plans

The Virginia High School League released a statement on Tuesday of last week regarding developing plans for the reopening of fall athletics and activities.

All sports and school activities have been suspended since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. In mid-May, out-of-season practices and activities were canceled until further notice.

In all instances, according to the VHSL statement, reopening will only happen in accordance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s directives on when to return to school, when schools can return to practice, and when schools can return to competition.

Planning will also be in compliance with directives issued by the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The statement emphasizes that the VHSL is developing that prioritize the health, safety and well-being of student-athletes, student-activity participants, coaches, administrators, officials and supporters.

For our two local high schools, Rockbridge County and Parry McCluer, fall sports consist of football, golf, volleyball, cross-country and cheerleading.

VHSL staff continues to meet regularly with region superintendents, principals, athletic directors, and the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. VHSL staff will begin meeting with Coach Advisory Committees of fall sports to discuss developing reopening plans. The goal is to develop plans for multiple scenarios related to start dates, safety measures for resuming practices, regular season schedules, and state playoffs for fall sports.

“What we have been doing and will continue to do, is to strongly advocate for our student-athletes for a reopening of fall sports and activities,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun. “We know much has been taken away from our students by the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to advocate for them and the return of high school athletics and activities. It is important to say, and many already have, as we develop plans there are more questions than answers. Because of that, we cannot put a timeline on when decisions will be completed and announced to the public until many of those questions become answerable.

“We continue to fully support our Governor’s directives, work with advisory groups, government agencies, other states, and medical experts to come up with a safe and sound plan to implement sports and activities for the fall,” Haun added.

Haun serves on the VDOE Return to School Recovery Task Force, and he, VHSL Associate Executive Director Tom Dolan and Director of Communications Mike McCall are providing ongoing recommendations to the Return To School Committee for VDOE.

As a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations, the VHSL works closely with other states in developing guidelines for the reopening of sports, as well as monitoring NCAA reopening guidelines. The VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee will use the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities to create guidelines for Virginia’s schools.

The NFHS listed four initial questions it is considering in a 16-page document it sent out on Tuesday of last week: Will games take place if schools are closed to in-person learning? Will games and championships be held if schools are closed within a state only in COVID-19 “hot spots?” Will sports considered “lower-risk” be allowed while those considered “higher-risk” are shut down? Does the state have “unique” guidelines that might affect a return to activity?

The Virginia High School League Executive Committee will be pondering these questions and similar ones when it holds its next meeting on June 25.

The News-Gazette

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