In a press release issue on Wednesday, the NCHSAA announced that it will push back the beginning of all fall sports until at least Sept. 1. The announcement comes on the heels of Governor Cooper’s announcement of the reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year.
Also noted in the release is that the first five days of the 2020-2021 school year will be designated as a “dead period” for all sports in order to allow school staff to focus on the start of the academic year and that NCHSAA Phase One of the summer conditioning and workouts will continue until further notice.
NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker issued the following statement at the bottom of the release:
“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 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. In the coming weeks, we will continue working with the SMAC as we plan our next steps for the fall, as well as determining when equipment could be shared—i.e. balls— and/or if we can move into Phase 2 of the summer workouts/conditioning.
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; however, there is also a commitment to the health and safety of students and coaches. Towards this end, we all will continue to follow the guidance of the Department of Health and Human Services relative to the data and how we all safely move forward.
We are in this together, and we will play again!
Prior to the announcement, Swain County volleyball had five games scheduled for August. The football team had just one game scheduled in August - an away game on Friday the 28thagainst Smoky Mountain - but if practice doesn’t even begin until September 1st, the first game would likely not occur until a couple of weeks later.
Swain County Athletic Director Neil Blankenship serves on the NCHSAA board and was a part of the voting process, however he was not able to discuss the result until it was announced publicly on Wednesday.
“I knew it was coming,” said Blankenship. “The big thing was that once it was released, I wanted to get with our athletes and talk to them about where we are and what it looks like and what school may look like so they don’t get discouraged or lose hope.”
Blankenship said that he has been in touch with some of the teams that Swain fall teams have scheduled.
“I’ve reached out to a few of the teams like Franklin and just said, “Look, let’s just keep an open mind with the schedule and see what things look like,’” he said. “Things are going to look different. We don’t know how they are going to look because we don’t know when we are officially going to start yet, so there is no reason to really be scrambling yet because the first thing we’ve got to do is get these kids in school. Once the superintendents figure out what school is going to look like, then they have to tell us if they can even play sports in their county.”