Sports

Halifax County High School head baseball coach Kenneth Day (left) shares a laugh with former Comets pitcher Ryan Powell during the Halifax County High School Alumni Baseball Game at Halifax County High School in April 2019. The COVID-19 outbreak placed a permanent timeout on spring sports for the 2020 season.

The Virginia High School League recently released a frequently asked questions letter in response to numerous requests from student athletes and their families after the spring sports season was canceled due to COVID-19.

The VHSL outlines several different aspects that may affect each student athlete or their families going forward.

Since the NCAA provided spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility, one of the answers VHSL provided was whether they would be providing the same. The VHSL and NCAA are different in the fact that there are no post graduate opportunities for high school students that include eligibility within the school system, unlike colleges that have graduate school and other opportunities for student athletes. VHSL officials also said they have a semester waiver appeals processes but they are usually granted for an entire school year, not single semesters and that granting eligibility for just spring sports athletes does not match the consistency with how the rule has been applied in the past.

The next question involved why the VHSL doesn’t just grant every student an extra year of eligibility. VHSL added several reasons including that those students who met graduation standards would not be eligible to return to high school to participate. The VHSL also has the semester rule, which states a student has eight consecutive semesters of opportunity to participate, beginning with their entrance to ninth grade. Adding another semester or year would cause eligibility issues in fall or winter sports due to the semester rule. They also stated that a rule change of this magnitude, adding an extra year of eligibility, would require the approval of the VHSL Executive Committee through its two-vote rule change process.

The next set of questions the VHSL answered was related to why they have not committed to playing spring sports in July and August. They prefaced with saying that there are multiple reasons that no decision has been made at this time and then went in to those reasons. The first being the most obvious, that it has not been determined when it will be safe to return to anything close to a normal existence, much less when activities such as sports will be considered.

Many of the schools are faced with issues during this time that include conducting such events as graduation, and many other things that they had not been able to do. VHSL believes to “undertake and allow extracurricular activities would seem quite inconsistent and highly disingenuous.”

VHSL physicals also expire at the end of June. VHSL knows that many of the doctors have postponed or canceled wellness visits and that receiving an updated physical may not be possible.

School student insurance for school systems also expires each year around June, and the VHSL stated that the cost to provide a rider may be something school systems may not have the ability to add.

There also are travel teams that have several important events or tournaments in the summer and the VHSL said they have been alerted to this and that adding the high school season to the fold would create issues for those students to have to choose.

The next question was what the status was of fall sports. VHSL stated that it is too early to make any definitive decisions related to fall sports. They said they are gathering all appropriate information that is available to them to establish “what if” protocols in the case it becomes necessary.

These statements by the VHSL make it pretty clear that there will not be a spring sports season of any kind. They still have not made an official announcement, that will come sometime in May, but it appears that the focus has now shifted into the fall sports season and whether things will get better in time to begin that season on time.

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