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VHSL unanimously approves calendar; schools will start play in December

VHSL unanimously approves calendar; schools will start play in December

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VHSL logo (copy)

The Virginia High School League’s executive committee unanimously approved a condensed calendar that has schools starting play in December and finishing in June.

The executive committee voted in late July not to play sports this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, instead rearranging the three seasons to start with winter sports, followed by fall and spring.

On Thursday, it approved a plan it floated a few weeks ago to have teams play 60% of their normal regular-season games, have a shortened time frame for regional playoffs, and have two rounds of state playoffs. Region playoffs in football will have four teams; state quarterfinal rounds in all sports have been eliminated.

Under the VHSL’s “Championship + 1” format, teams that do not advance to regional tournaments can schedule another game, as long as it is completed by the deadline for region playoffs.

“The VHSL executive committee acknowledges that no plan is perfect,” VHSL executive director Billy Haun said in a statement. “We are in unprecedented times in which we have been forced to create a temporary new normal. We understand this plan, or any plan, will not meet the expectations for those wanting a normal fall, winter, and spring sports season. This plan, however, will allow student-athletes and academic activity participants the opportunity of having a season and playing for a state championship.”

VHSL Season 1, winter sports

Sport Number of contests MPR First practice First contest Region start Region deadline VHSL semis VHSL final
Basketball 14 8 7-Dec 21-Dec 8-Feb 13-Feb 16-Feb 20-Feb
Gymnastics 6 8 14-Dec 28-Dec 1-Feb 6-Feb NA 12-Feb
Indoor Track 6 8 14-Dec 28-Dec 1-Feb 6-Feb NA 12-13-Feb*
Sideline Cheer NA 20 7-Dec 06-Jan+ NA NA NA NA
Swim & Dive 6 8 14-Dec 28-Dec 1-Feb 6-Feb NA 13-Feb
Wrestling 8 8 14-Dec 28-Dec 1-Feb 13-Feb NA 18-20-Feb

*Class 1 & 2 – Dates and venue TBD, Class 3 & 4 – Dates March 1&2 at Liberty University, Class 5 & 6 – Dates March 1 & 2 at Virginia Beach Sports Center

+ Sideline Cheer – Teams may begin cheering 12/21, but January 6 is the first day stunting is allowed

VHSL Season 2, fall sports

Sport Number of contests MPR First practice First contest Region start Region deadline VHSL semis VHSL final
Competition Cheer 3 20 4-Feb 1-Mar 5-Apr 10-Apr NA 17-Apr
Cross Country 6 8 15-Feb 1-Mar 12-Apr 17-Apr NA 23-24-Apr
Field Hockey 10 8 15-Feb 1-Mar 12-Apr 17-Apr 20-Apr 22-24-Apr
Football 6 15 4-Feb 22-Feb 7-Apr 17-Apr 24-Apr 1-May
Golf (Boys) 8 NA 15-Feb 1-Mar 12-Apr 15-Apr NA 19-Apr
Golf (Girls) 8 NA 15-Feb 1-Mar NA NA 21-22 Apr 26-Apr
Volleyball 12 8 15-Feb 1-Mar 12-Apr 17-Apr 20-Apr 23-24-Apr

VHSL Season 3, spring sports

Sport Number of contests MPR First practice First contest Region start Region deadline VHSL semis VHSL final
Baseball 12 8 12-Apr 26-Apr 14-Jun 19-Jun 22-Jun 26-Jun
Lacrosse 9 8 12-Apr 26-Apr 14-Jun 19-Jun 22-Jun 26-Jun
Soccer 10 8 12-Apr 26-Apr 14-Jun 19-Jun 22-Jun 26-Jun
Softball 12 8 12-Apr 26-Apr 14-Jun 19-Jun 22-Jun 26-Jun
Tennis 10 8 12-Apr 21-Apr 20-May 5-Jun 7-Jun 11-13-Jun
Track & Field 6 8 12-Apr 26-Apr 7-Jun 12-Jun NA 18-19-Jun

Decisions to play or not play this fall have varied around the country. As of Sept. 17, 14 state high school associations were playing fall sports as normal, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Twenty-nine states were having modified fall seasons.

Seven states –Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, California, Oregon and Nevada — plus the District of Columbia were not allowing fall competition (Delaware voted last week to resume fall sports but was awaiting approval from the Delaware Board of Education).

In 32 states, football was being played as normal or in modified seasons.

A “Let Them Play” rally seeking the return of high school sports in Virginia was held at the state capitol earlier this week, with about 50 players, parents and coaches attending. The VHSL, though, issued a statement signaling its intention to stick with its plan to delay sports until December. Haun said it was done “through much collaboration.”

Thursday’s vote was 33-0.

Haun said an online petition for the “Let Them Play” movement had about 5,000 signatures. He also said league staff and the executive committee had received “numerous emails,” the majority about football, from parents basically outlining four concerns: frustration that players have been participating in club sports during the summer but can’t play in the VHSL; mental and emotional strains for players not being on a team; missing out on scholarship opportunities; other states playing.

“Losing last spring’s season was very difficult, and now not having competitions in the fall is difficult,” Haun said. “We … are career educators. Along with parents, we want to do what’s best for our approximate 190,000 student-athletes, our 318 member schools who participate in our activities. … I just want everybody to understand … that we all feel the same way.”

The state is under Phase Three guidelines, which include physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices, and limiting attendance, among other things. Club sports have interpreted some of the guidelines differently than the VHSL, which has taken a more conservative approach with the state’s 132 school divisions operating in various ways. Sixty-eight divisions are fully remote, according to the state Department of Education. Ten are in person; 25 are partial in person; 25 are all hybrid; and four are partial hybrid.

Haun has said the league doesn’t believe high-risk sports such as football and basketball can be played until the restrictions are loosened. He and VHSL associate director Tom Dolan talked with the governor’s office last Thursday, and “the information that was shared with us is there likely will be no change in Phase Three guidelines any time soon.”

Under the VHSL plan, region playoffs will be conducted in one week. For region playoffs except for football, each region will determine the number of qualifiers and the format, but only one team will advance to the state semifinals in all sports.

Football generally has eight-team regionals, but teams can only play one game a week, and the plan has only two weekends to play games.

Football teams will have seven weeks to play six regular-season games, starting Feb. 22 and running through Friday, April 2. Regionals can begin on Wednesday, April 7, and run through Saturday, April 17. The state semifinals will be on April 24, with the championship games on May 1.

Basketball teams can start practice on Dec. 7 and start play on Dec. 21, with 14 regular-season games. Regional tournaments will run from Feb. 8-13. The state semifinals are Feb. 16 with the finals Feb. 20.

Spring sports will start play April 21 or 26, with the state finals finished by June 26.

The VISAA, which conducts state championship events for private schools in Virginia, is not sanctioning any events this fall.

Almost all private schools in the area are not playing football in the fall, although some are planning to have other sports such as cross country, tennis, field hockey and volleyball.

Life Christian, based in Chesterfield County, has said it will play at least four football games out of state. Some other private schools around the state have scheduled games as well.

tpearrell@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6965

Twitter: @timpearrelltd

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