Local ADs optimistic about VHSL return-to-play model, though questions remain

The current model does not address what postseason play would look like for each sport
Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia High School League’s adopted return-to-play model does what nearly everyone involved hoped forit keeps alive the chance that every high school sport will be played this upcoming school year.

But now that we know the timeframe, new questions surrounding scheduling and logistics still need to be answered.

“For me, at Northside, we have a lot of multisport athletes, which I highly encourage, but this is definitely going to change things up a little bit and have some people possibly make some decisions that they haven’t had to make before,” said Northside athletics director Mark Eubank.

He added playing sports is likely predicated on a return to in-classroom learning for all students.

“If you can’t get them back in the classroom safely, how do you justify having sports on a regular basis and starting those on time?” asked Eubank. “I think those questions need to be answered first before we can get to athletics.”

There’s also the lingering question of safety, and what happens to a team if, or when, a player contracts the virus.

“Let’s say Lord Botetourt and Northside are playing basketball and the next day, we find out that one of the contestants tested positive,” posed Lord Botetourt athletics director Chuck Pound. “Does that mean everybody on the court, everybody on both teams has to be quarantined or tested? Lots of questions on that aspect.”

Pound also believes there could be conflict among districts, which do not have an even distribution of teams. What works for one, schedule-wise, may not work for another.

“You’re going to have a different number of games, so what the Blue Ridge thinks might be the best idea may not work for the River Ridge,” said Pound.

As it stands, the model also requires the state of Virginia to move beyond the current Phase III restrictions for high-contact sports to be feasible.

With still months until the first day of competition, Eubank said it’s too soon to know if this plan can make it to the end zone.

“To sit here and say that it will or won’t, I don’t think I could really give you a correct answer on that,” he said. “I’d love to see the student-athletes on the field or on the court succeeding. I know they want to get back in the classroom. They want to get back to doing athletics. So for me, personally, I would love to see it work, but I can’t say that it will.”

The current model does not address what postseason play would look like for each sport. The executive committee plans to reconvene on August 24 to discuss playoff possibilities.

“I know it’s going to have its drawbacks,” said Pound on the model. “It’s going to have its aches and pains but yes, the number one goal is to let these student-athletes have their seasons and not say their senior year, their freshman year, whatever, they didn’t get to play football or they didn’t get to play softball. In some form or fashion, we’re going to get to do that.”

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