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Sports could resume in December

Basketball could be the first sport to practice and play under a Virginia High School League proposal.

If approved, basketball practice for teams sanctioned by the VHSL would be allowed to begin on Dec. 7, and the first game in a 14-contest season is scheduled for Dec. 21. The VHSL’s executive committee met Aug. 24 to consider what it’s calling a “Championships+1” calendar under a condensed schedule.

The committee was expected to finalize the plan at a Sept. 3 special meeting. That meeting was rescheduled to Sept. 17, “to give the VHSL Executive Committee and staff an additional two weeks to review and discuss feedback from membership before adopting the final schedule,” the organization announced Aug. 31.

“We have received a tremendous amount of input from principals, superintendents, activity directors and coaches since the release of the Championships+1 schedule,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. Billy Haun. “This type of feedback from membership is critical and essential before approving a final plan. Moving the meeting two weeks later gives the Executive Committee and staff the necessary time to review the invaluable input we have received. From day one, we have been committed to getting this right and getting our students participating in activities safely and responsibly.”

Gymnastics, indoor track, sideline cheer, swimming and wrestling, which are winter sports, would be allowed to hold their first practices on Dec. 14. Fall sports, including football and competition cheer, could hold their first practices on Feb. 4; the first football games would be on Feb. 22. The first practice for field hockey, volleyball, cross country and golf would be on Feb. 15.

First practices for spring sports — baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis and track — would be April 12.

However, these proposed schedules are contingent on the state being in the current phase or a less restrictive reopening phase for COVID-19 mitigation, according to Mike McCall, a VHSL spokesman. The Charlottesville-based league sets the rules for interscholastic public high school sports in Virginia.

A condensed practice and game schedule, along with the knowledge that the coronavirus pandemic could once again upend high school sports statewide are not the only issues on the table. School divisions may also face sports-related financial issues, as “typically football and basketball ticket revenue funds the entire athletic budget, which will vary from school to school,” McCall said.

In an announcement, Haun praised everyone who has worked to get athletes safely back in action. “We appreciate the hard work and feedback our region athletic directors, coaches, principals and other representatives provided to our staff during region meetings and through our coaches advisory committees,” he said.

“Our newly formed Student Advisory Committee also provided invaluable feedback as well,” Haun continued. “The VHSL is fortunate to have a dedicated group of school administrators and coaches who are working tirelessly during these unprecedented times on behalf of all students, as we plan for athletics and academic activities for the upcoming year.”