Loudoun County, Va. — In a special session on July 15, three different models were presented to the VHSL Executive Committee regarding when and how Virginia high school sports and activities could start in 2020-2021.
“It’s important to remember that in all these models playing sports in the high risk category depends on being out of the current Phase III guidelines,” VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said. “All our efforts will continue towards advocating for the opening of sports and activities in a safe and reasonable way that will protect athletes, activity participants, coaches, officials, and the public.”
Model 1 proposes to leave all sports in their current seasons, limiting athletic participation to just low and moderate contact risk sports. For the fall, that would mean golf and cross country would compete as scheduled, while high contact risk sports including field hockey, football, cheerleading, and volleyball would not be played.
Model 2 proposes to switch the fall and spring seasons, limiting athletic participation to just low and moderate contact risk sports. For the fall, track and field, tennis, baseball, and softball would compete out of season, while high contact risk sports including boys and girls lacrosse and boys and girls soccer would not be played. Then in the spring, the plan would be to re-evaluate playing cheerleading, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, and volleyball.
Model 3 proposes to adopt a Condensed Interscholastic Plan, which would shrink the length of the all sports seasons and push fall sports to early 2021. Winter sports would compete from December 14–February 20, fall sports would compete from February 15–May 1, and spring sports would compete from April 12–June 26.
The VHSL voted to delay the final decision on the beginning of fall sports to July 27.
“Our decision today will allow members of the executive committee to collaborate with the regions and groups that they represent to make a decision on July 27 that is in the best interest of our students,” VHSL Executive Committee Chairwoman Shannon Butler said. “Moving forward – our ultimate goal would be to have all of our student athletes the opportunity to safely represent their schools on the playing field during the 2020-2021 school year.”
What does this mean for local high school sports?
Families in Loudoun County had until July 15 at 8 a.m. to indicate their choice for how their students would be attending school in the fall semester of 2020, choosing between two learning-style options:
- Hybrid Option: Students will physically attend school two days per week and participate remotely three days per week
- 100% Distance Learning Option: Students will participate remotely five days per week
Shortly after that deadline, the VHSL laid out three proposals for how we might be able to safely allow our student-athletes to compete in interscholastic sports.
Of these options, Models 2 and 3 certainly show the VHSL’s desire to play a high school football season, but also would allow for a greater number of student-athletes to compete in the 2020-2021 school year.
In general, for schools in Loudoun County, football is their highest revenue-generating sport which helps cover the costs associated with all other sports throughout the year. Losing football could be financially detrimental to supporting all other varsity sports this year.
Additionally, Models 2 and 3 would see shortened or modified seasons for most sports, meaning more opportunities to play, whereas Model 1 proposes cancelling four sports, including cheerleading, field hockey, football, and volleyball.
My opinion doesn’t matter, but if you’re still reading…
The most important question we need to answer in regards to all of these models is “can we provide a safe and healthy environment for our student-athletes to compete?” If the answer is no, then stop reading.
However, if we can provide a safe and healthy playing environment, Model 2 seems to be a reasonable proposal which would provide the most opportunities for student-athletes to compete, while also playing entire seasons of our highest revenue-generating sports.
Additionally, flipping spring and fall sports in Model 2 would actually align our high school soccer season with the rest of the country, as most states play competitive interscholastic soccer in the fall.
As much as I love Friday Night Lights in the fall and the smell of a freshly mowed outfield in the spring, LCPS and the VHSL have a responsibility to keep our student-athletes, coaches, and community safe, and hopefully, they do everything in their power to do just that.
Update: VHSL has made an update to the proposal which classifies soccer as a high risk contact sport, meaning Model 2 is becoming decreasingly appealing