The Halifax County High School basketball team returned to the court for the first in almost eight months on Monday marking the first student athletes and coaches to return to conditioning since March.

The return was not a smooth one as legal questions from school board member Walter Potts Jr. put the comeback in jeopardy. Those questions were sorted out and the return to conditioning began on Monday. But there remains one hurdle for the student athletes and that is a vote next week by the school board to allow the school to participate in the upcoming VHSL Championships +1 schedule beginning in December.

I have been told that numerous coaches and students will be on hand to speak to the board to try and explain to them the importance of allowing the kids to participate in sports this year. This vote is more than just whether or not to allow the kids to play sports this year, but for many, it could determine the fate of their future.

College recruiting involves coaches watching a lot of game film from prospective recruits at their high school. A lot of kids future’s rely on the chance to get on the field and prove that they belong at the college level and for many of the kids here in Halifax County that chance has been ripped away from them already with COVID-19 shutting down all of the spring sports season last school year. That means that baseball, softball, track and field, soccer and tennis players all lost their entire season last school year. Seniors didn’t get the chance to live out their senior season on the field or court and there is a chance that other athletes may miss a second year in a row. That isn’t fair to the student that has put their heart and soul into playing. Some students may use sports as a distraction or something to do, but for others, it is their ticket to college. Scholarships to play college sports can be as good as paying for their entire tuition, room and board and everything else, and for some student athlete’s in Halifax County that is their only option if they want to go to college.

A lot of the kids have families that cannot financially afford to send their children to college, but scholarships pave the way for many of them. Since COVID-19 hit back in March, I have had the opportunity to speak to many students that are now in college playing or have recently committed to play and one thing they all had in common was what getting a scholarship meant to them and their family. Several of them even told me that they wouldn’t have been able to dream of going to college if it were not for the financial assistance they received for their athletic abilities.

Monday’s vote is extremely important to so many kids’ future here in Halifax County. If the school board has the best interest of the students and families that they represent, they will vote to allow them to play in the upcoming season. The VHSL, along with Governor Ralph Northam and his office, the VDOE and the VDH have spent many months and countless hours working together to give the kids a chance to get back to doing what they love.

The mental and physical well being of the kids comes first and for so many of them that have been away from that for over half of a year, the return means so much to them. To be able to get together with their teammates, coaches and friends is something that you cannot take away from them. There are so many guidelines and rules that are in place for everyone to follow, including attendance regulations and the experts have said that everyone will be as safe as they can be if they follow the guidelines. We have said from the beginning to listen to the experts and the experts have given us the ok and the tools to proceed with sports in December.

I think the school board should follow the experts in allowing the student athletes in Halifax County to play their sports seasons like every other school in the commonwealth of Virginia.

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