Virginia High School League

The Virginia High School League released guidelines on Friday to help schools develop plans for sports.

The Virginia High School League released guidelines for reopening sports/activities on Friday.

The guidelines are in alignment with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s reopening plans with Three Phases of guidelines for high school athletics.

Phase One does not permit any athletics or activities, and Phase Three guidelines are to be determined. While Virginia is currently in Phase Two, the state could be moving into Phase Three as early as Friday, and those guidelines would be determined then.

The VHSL worked in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Education (DOE); the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) developed the guidelines for the school divisions as they prepare for the safe reopening of high school sports and activities.

“These VHSL guidelines are recommended for use as school divisions develop their own specific requirements for the Phase Two COVID Mitigation Health Plans for Public Schools,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun. “SMAC worked closely with VDH to ensure that these recommended guidelines will offer guidance to local school divisions and superintendents reopening plans. Our SMAC committee of leading health experts has put together an invaluable tool to assist our school divisions in developing those plans.”

The guidelines include specific areas of focus including facilities cleaning, entrance/exit strategies, limitations on gatherings, pre-workout screenings, face coverings, hygiene practices, hydration and food, travel, locker rooms and athletic training rooms, weight rooms, equipment and guidelines for individual sports.

For Phase Two, indoor practices/activities may occur if at least 10 feet of physical distance can be maintained by all persons (including participants, coaches etc.) at all times. The total number of attendees (including participants, coaches etc.) cannot exceed the lesser of 30% of the occupancy load of the room in which the activity is being held or 50 persons. No spectators are allowed during practices.

For outdoor practices/activities, the same 10 feet of social distancing is expected, and the total number of attendees cannot exceed the lesser of 50% of the occupancy load of the venue of 50 persons.

Workouts are asked to be conducted in pods of students/coaches working out together weekly to limit overall exposure.

Coaches, officials and other contest personnel should wear cloth face coverings at all times and are strongly encouraged to wear cloth face coverings whenever physical distancing is not possible.

The individual guidelines for each sport vary, with 10 feet of distancing being maintained for all teams. For example, for basketball you can condition, individual ball drills, no contact or sharing of balls, a player may shoot with a ball but a team should not practice/pass a basketball among the team where multiple players touch the same ball.

In football there is conditioning and individual drills. A player should not participate in drills with a football that will be handed off or passed to other teammates. Contact with other players is not allowed, and there should be no sharing of tackling dummies/donuts/sleds. Protective equipment is prohibited.

Baseball and softball guidelines allow conditioning and tee work. Players should not share gloves or bats or throw a ball that will be tossed among the team. A single player may hit in the cages, throw batting practice (with netting as backstop, no catcher). Prior to another athlete using the same balls they should be collected and cleaned individually.

All schools must individually submit their plans for reopening to the DOE before they are allowed to begin their practices, based off of the VHSL guidelines.

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