As you read this the Virginia High School League is either deciding or just finishing up deciding the fate of high school sports in Virginia this year. We already know that there will not be football on Friday nights this fall, but the rest remains up in the air.
This decision has been long awaited from student athletes, coaches, parents, fans and sports writers across the commonwealth for months.
Spring sports were shut down in mid-March and since then there has been meeting after meeting and delay after delay. The VHSL executive committee has met numerous times and up until two weeks ago they never hinted at what direction sports in Virginia would look like for the 2020-21 school year.
Two weeks ago VHSL executive director Dr. Billy Haun released three models for the executive committee to look over. They also got feedback from school administrators and athletic directors. One of those three models will be voted on today, and hopefully we will know which way the sports season is headed.
I say hopefully because Gov. Ralph Northam just tweeted over the weekend that state leaders are closely monitoring the COVID-19 numbers in Virginia and that if numbers don’t come down there may be additional steps put in place to “blunt” the spread of the virus.
We don’t know if this means we go back to Phase Two or he cracks down on known hot spots, but either way a step back is not what we need right now. Anything other than moving forward could be detrimental to high school sports.
Model two and model three are the scenarios that are the favorites to be implemented today. Model three appears to be the front runner, especially since soccer has been reclassified as a high-risk contact sport. That means if model two was selected, which switches spring and fall sports, soccer could not be played at this time in the fall where it would be moved. Since soccer already lost its entire spring season back in March, it is highly unlikely they vote for model two because it would mean soccer loses a second season in a row.
Model three, as we know, pushes back the start of all sports until December. The sports year would not begin until shortly before Christmas with the start of winter sports. The first games would be held right after Christmas. Fall sports moves to a March start date and spring sports moves to May. All seasons would be condensed; with only 60% of the schedules being completed and, postseasons would be altered as well. How much they will be altered will more than likely be decided in the meeting today.
While this may not be my favorite option, it does give each sport the opportunity to play in some capacity this year. It also gives the VHSL time for the virus numbers to go down or to allow time for a vaccine to be available.
Whatever the outcome the VHSL decides, it is going to be a landmark decision. Never in the history of high school sports have we ever seen anything like we are seeing right now. We are living in a time that will be remembered forever. There will be books written, history books will reflect on this, and we will tell our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren about COVID-19 and how it changed the way we live our lives on a daily basis.
I still feel for the student athletes who have to go through this. Some have already lost their senior seasons, and now the rising seniors are facing the same uncertainty. The student athletes who are trying to get noticed by colleges to continue their playing careers are losing valuable time, and the others are just hoping they haven’t lost the last time they step onto a field to play competitive sports.
The soap opera that has been “what will happen with high school sports in Virginia” will finally be decided, and while some may not agree with the decision, at least there will be clarity and a path forward.
Until next time.