The Virginia High School League moved the athletic programs for its 317 members one step closer to resuming out-of-season practice activities.
But it came with a caveat.
The VHSL Executive Committee voted Wednesday to reinstate out-of-season practice beginning Monday and suspend the summer “dead period” for all athletic teams during the week of June 29 through July 4. However, before out-of season activities can begin, each school division must submit health plans to the Virginia Department of Education outlining compliance with Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mitigation strategies.
The Executive Committee’s vote came one day after Gov. Ralph Northam laid out guidelines for a phased reopening of schools.
Schools are still in Phase One — which went into effect Tuesday and prohibits athletic and extracurricular activities — and the submitted health plans will allow for a transition to Phase Two.
“It’s definitely a move in the right direction,” Heritage football coach Brad Bradley said. “We’re one step closer.”
Mike McCall, the director of communications with the VHSL, said practices can begin once the DOE receives the health plans from the respective school divisions.
“I suspect that schools will quickly and efficiently get those things to them [the D.O.E.} by next week,” McCall said.
The VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is completing work on the VHSL Guidelines for Reopening Sports/Activities, and the SMAC is finalizing the document to ensure it is in alignment with the guidelines released in Northam’s plan, as well as with the VDH and CDC.
“The VHSL Executive Committee believes that getting students back into some level of education-based activities will be supportive of their physical and mental health and well-being,” VHSL Executive Director Billy Haun said in a written release. “Allowing students and coaches the opportunity to begin out-of-season extracurricular activities and athletics will allow school communities the ability to begin moving in a positive direction.
“Our student-athletes have been out for over three months. Conditioning and acclimation will be critical as coaches and athletes prepare for the upcoming fall season.”
Phase Two of Northam’s plan allows for sports to start again, but with extensive limitations. The guidance says athletics should be limited to individual or team-based practice, skill-building drills or conditioning, and 10 feet of physical distance is maintained by all participants and spectators for indoor and outdoor sports.
Greg Troxell, Augusta County’s director of athletics, told The News Leader in Staunton that he expects schools in the county to begin practicing June 29, which will allow the athletic directors and coaches more than two weeks to put plans in place and for the county to submit the health plan.
“It’s going to take a lot of organization, a lot of teamwork,” Bradley said. “You have to be organized. You have to plan for every single thing.”
Reach Damien Sordelett at (434) 385-5550.
Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.
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