The Press Box for August 5
It’s getting closer each week, and if everything goes as planned we will soon see athletes working out for the 2020 fall sports season. August 17, is the mandatory date the WSSAC has set for high schools in WV to prepare for opening games.
High School schedules for most schools are listed on the WVSSAC website. We will be putting out our annual fall sports tab on August 12. It will include this years schedules for football, volleyball, soccer and golf, in Wetzel, Tyler Counties and River High School in Ohio. We will make it as accurate as possible, but If your team is not listed in the tab it’s because, it wasn’t on the WVSSAC webpage, we didn’t receive it, or couldn’t get the information.
Following the announcement on Friday July 10, of the start date the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission released guidelines and a revised schedule for fall sports.
Golf will be the quickest to start, while football teams will be able to put on pads August 21. Four days later they can start having contact and the earliest a scrimmage can be held is August 28 at 4 p.m.
The first soccer games, volleyball matches and cross country meets can begin on September 2. The first football game can be held Sept. 3.
Games scheduled prior to those dates will have to be rescheduled or they will have to play fewer games in the season.
The new start date for scoccer teams means schools will need to reschedule games that were scheduled before the new start date. Bernie Dolan, executive director of the WVSSAC, suggested playing more soccers games each week.
“Instead of playing one game a week or two you might have to squeeze in a third in order to get in all your games,” Dolan said Friday during the announcement delaying the start of practices.
Changes to schedules for football volleyball, cross country and golf teams in Wetzel and Tyler Counties could continue as most of our schools play out of state teams and their schedules could change as well.
The WVSSAC released guidelines for all fall sports and a separate document for football with many overlapping requirements and recommendations.
Football saw two rules waived for this year concerning playoff eligibility. Playing eight games is not required to be playoff eligible and teams do not need to play six teams in their classification to make the playoffs.
The sidelines must be extended for all sports to allow for distancing and volleyball teams are not to switch benches after each set. Sidelines are also to be limited to essential personnel only.
Water is not to be provided for shared use with players, who will be responsible of either bringing their own water bottles or be provided water in individual containers.
The WVSSAC also recommends teams travel with fewer players to away games and for football teams to dress fewer players for home games.
Dressing room and locker rooms are to have as limited use as possible with the suggestion that players arrive at games fully dressed as much as possible for football. Football teams are recommended to dress in small groups and use extra facilities when possible.
Modification of the usual pre-game meal is recommended and the WVSSAC suggest providing meals the players can just pick up.
Players are recommended to avoid any unnecessary contact with other players during pre-game activities. Likewise for post game handshakes with opposing teams.
The WVSSAC’s recommendations for football include holding only one day of practice with contact each week and for halftime talks to be conducted in the respective end zones instead of the locker rooms. Two additional football-specific requirements are that the length of timeouts and time between quarters is extended to two minutes while the public address announcer should make social distancing announcements throughout the game.
With likely smaller attendances across all sports the, WVSSAC is recommending schools live stream their games for pay per view to recover lost revenue.
More details will likely be released nearer to the start of the season.
Individual counties are also expected to set their own requirements including defining possible limits on game attendance.
West Virginia Secondary Activities Director Bernie Dolan made the announcement during Gov. Jim Justice’s regular COVID-19 press conference Friday inside the state capital. All fall sports practices are now pushed back two weeks, and seasons will be delayed in turn. Games were pushed back so schools could still comply with the WVSSAC guidelines. Organizational rules require all students in all sports must participate in 14 practices befoare taking part in any game action. Practices were originally scheduled to begin Aug. 3 with the exception of volleyball. Volleyball planned to start Aug. 10.
The official start of the golf season will take place on Aug. 24. Volleyball, cross country, cheerleading and soccer start Sept. 2. Football returns to action on Sept. 3.
“It (Sept. 3) is the Thursday night prior to the first week of school,” said Dolan on the decision for football. “We think it will be a great way to bring the community back together. Everyone will be in full swing by the time we walk into school that next Thursday. We think it is a great opportunity for our kids and for our schools to be at the center of their community again.”
Here is the list of rules and reccomendations from the WVSSAC for football:
The SSAC issued five required game-day rules:
The coaching box will be extended from between the 30-yard lines to between the 15-yard lines to encourage social distancing.
All water or other hydrating solutions will be provided in individual containers. Public water sharing systems will not be permitted.
Sidelines will be limited to essential personnel such as coaches, players, trainers, managers, etc.
Time outs and time between quarters will be two minutes.
Social distancing announcements are to be made over the public address system throughout the games.
The SSAC also issued 14 recommendations:
Travel with fewer players to away games and dress fewer players at home games.
Modify pregame meals so personnel eat in smaller groups.
Use extra dressing facilities, come partially dressed to away games, dress in smaller pods of 10-15 players at a time. Arrange dressing and shower situations with the host team.
Conduct halftime in the end zones rather than lockerrooms.
Consider pay-per-view options to recover lost revenue.
Modify transportation and bus options per West Virginia State Department of Health and Human Resources guidelines.
Limit contact in practice to one day per week.
No pregame or postgame handshakes.
Use electronic tickets rather than paper.
Position hand sanitizing stations on sidelines.
Ask CDC COVID-19 screening questions. Follow local health department guidelines for reporting suspicious cases.
Use disinfectants and cleaning agents in line with CDC and WVDHHR protocols for cleaning equipment, facilities, etc.
Recommend band and cheerleaders not travel to away games.
Review face shield information to be made available to all schools.
The SSAC put many of the same modifications in effect for other fall sports, with some differences such as volleyball teams not switching benches after each set, consider inviting fewer teams to tournaments, limit the number of people involved in pregame conferences, have no unnecessary contact with others and use electronic whistles.
However it works out, we hope it is best for everyone involved. The kids deserve an opportnity to participate in athletics, and it looks like they will get that chance. Even if there is no in school classes and everything is virtual, games could still go forward. Lets continue to support high school athletics even if we can’t be there to cheer them on. One thing is certain, they will have respect for our country and those who paid the price for our freedom.