“I think we can make a more informed decision in four weeks or eight weeks from now,” Billy Haun said during the VHSL Executive Committee meeting, held via Zoom.
At this point, Haun said, it’s simply too early to tell what impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the fall sports season for the state’s high schools.
Even in Gov. Ralph Northam’s Phase Three plans for reopening, scheduled to begin Wednesday, social distancing is a part of the guidelines. For sports, the guidelines indicate participants should remain 10 feet apart.
“I don’t understand how you can play team sports while you’re social distancing,” Haun said. “That’s a huge issue.”
Another big issue is that Phase Three allows for gatherings of only up to 250 people.
“That 250 includes participants. That doesn’t leave very many options for paid spectators,” he said.
There are also issues with transportation. Social distancing guidelines would allow only about 12 to 15 people on a bus. For sports teams, in most cases, that would create a need for many more buses than are traditionally used.
“If we had to make that decision today, we would have to vote to have no sports,” Haun said.
Fortunately, he said, that decision did not have to be made Thursday.
The best approach right now, according to Haun and the executive committee members who addressed the subject, is to wait and see if the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to decline in the state and how long the state will remain in Phase Three.
While the VHSL is excited to get back to sports as soon as possible, Haun said the safety of all involved is the No. 1 priority.
Last week, the VHSL released back-to-sports guidelines for Phase Two, which basically allow teams to do conditioning while maintaining social distancing.
While most schools in Southwest Virginia have started organized conditioning programs, others in different parts of the state have not.
Haun said the VHSL is working with the state department of education and the state health department to develop high school sports guidelines for Phase Three.
PLAN B, MAYBE
While there is hope for the fall season to begin in a few months, the VHSL is exploring other options for delayed, shortened seasons.
Haun presented the committee with a model to review, but stressed that neither he nor anyone else was endorsing the plan.
“This is a model. This is not a VHSL schedule,” he said.
Instead, Haun said it was one example of what could be done if there are no sports in the fall.
All three prep sports seasons would be shortened in the model. The winter season, which includes boys and girls basketball, indoor track, swimming and diving, and wrestling, would be held from Dec. 13 to Feb. 20.
The fall season sports — football, volleyball, cross country, golf and competitive cheer — would be held Feb. 15 through May 1.
The spring season sports, including baseball, softball, soccer, track and tennis, would follow and run through the end of June.