The Virginia High School League Executive Committee officially adopted the Championships +1 schedule on Thursday afternoon in their special session.

The unanimous vote officially sets the 2021 athletic and academic activities season.

The first sports to take place in the commonwealth will be winter sports that will begin in early December.

“We have received invaluable input from our school communities, parents and students who say the physical and mental health benefits of getting our students back to a level of participation is extremely important,” VHSL executive director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said. The championships +1 schedule will provide sports in all three seasons.

“The VHSL Executive Committee acknowledges that no plan is perfect. We are in unprecedented times in which we have been forced to create a temporary new normal. We understand this plan, or any plan will not meet the expectations for those wanting a normal fall, winter and spring season. This plan, however, will allow student-athletes and academic activity participants the opportunity of having a season and playing for a state championship,” Haun added.

The plan will allow each sport to play 60% of the normal contests allowed. Every sport will hold a state championship, and no district may intentionally disadvantage a member school relative to scheduling. A school may request of its district to fill their schedule with non-district opponents, but all district decisions relative to scheduling require the unanimous approval of the district.

Football will begin in February, and teams will have seven dates to play six games. Those dates are Feb. 22 and 27; March 5, 12, 19 and 26; and April 2. Any game that is not played due to COVID-19 issues will be treated as a game “not played” versus a forfeit.

Post season calendar allows for one week of region tournaments and one week for a state tournament semi-finals and finals. Each region will advance one team to the state tournament in all sports. The team at the top of the bracket will host team state championships if the venue meets VHSL state tournament site requirements, otherwise the games will be hosted in a facility in the geographic area that meets the requirements. State championships will also be one-day events when possible to avoid overnight accommodations, and eliminate team expenses.

Other changes are in place for various sports. Wrestling will be eight person brackets and a one-day state tournament. Indoor track will qualify the top three region finishers in each event. Outdoor track will qualify the top four region finishers in each event. Swimming and diving will qualify the top four region finishers in each event. Golf will qualify one team and three individuals per region.

Districts will create all district schedules and create protocols for handling situations for games affected by COVID-19. The districts and regions will be responsible for implementing all guidelines and recommendations approved by the VHSL executive committee that are designed to decrease exposure to COVID-19 and protect student-athletes, coaches, officials, game administration and fans. VHSL staff will work with athletic director, principals, SMAC and coach advisory committees to create those guidelines and recommendations.

Winter sports begin when basketball returns to practice on Dec. 7. Their first contest date is Dec. 21.

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV