By Tim Gardner
Following North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement July 14 regarding school openings, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA), the governing body of prep sports in the state, announced today that the start of high school fall sports will be delayed until at least September 1.
The delay is due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that is sweeping America and some other nations around the world. The NCHSAA’s Board of Directors make the decision to delay the start of fall sports.
The sports affected include football, volleyball, women’s golf, women’s tennis and men’s soccer.
This delay directly affects high schools in Watauga, Avery and Ashe counties, which are all governed by the NCHSAA..
The first five student days of the 2020-21 school year will be designated as a “dead period” for all sports, allowing school staffs to focus on the start of school.
Phase 1 of the summer conditioning and workouts implemented by the NCHSAA will continue until further notice.
NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said the delayed start date is not “in cement” and can be delayed more if state numbers of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases do not improve.
“Each NCHSAA board member believes in the value of education-based athletics and is committed to safely offering a fall, winter and spring sports program during this school year,” Tucker said. “However, there is also a commitment to the health and safety of students and coaches. Toward this end, we all will continue to follow the guidance of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services relative to the data and how we all safely move forward.”
Tucker continued: “For now, we believe these steps provide hope for our student athletes, and the possibility for playing fall sports. We know that many decisions are being made relative to the reopening plan your school(s) will follow. After each Local Education Agency (LEA) has had an opportunity to formalize and finalize those reopening plans, the NCHSAA Staff will survey the membership to determine how sports should and/or can fit into the various models that will exist across the state. Please understand this delayed start date is not “in cement” and can be delayed even further if we do not have improved data from DHHS, or some other reason exists for delaying further into September or beyond.
“We acknowledge that playing certain sports are more problematic at any time without a vaccine; however, we remain in consultation with our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) members, and they believe we can and should offer a sports program, with all necessary modifications, delays, etc.”
If fall sports seasons are held, they will likely consist of fewer games than usual and with perhaps no idle or open dates or even played with conference games only. The NCHSAA Board of Directors still have to determine how seasons would play out.
North Carolina high school student-athletes returned to their respective courts and fields on June 15. Under Phase 1, these athletes are continuing those no-contact (hitting) workouts and conditioning with tightly regimented and restricted guidelines.
That means holding productive sessions while taking every precaution mandated by Governor Cooper, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, the National Federation of State High School Associations and the North Carolina High School Athletics Association.
The latter suspended sports activities at all high schools last March in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and adopted measures for the re-opening of practices that include social distancing, temperature checks, groups of less than 10 people, frequent sanitization and individual use of certain equipment.