CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – On Monday, Governor Jim Justice announced key dates in the latest plan for the return of high school winter sports.
When high school sports resume on March 3, a total of 356 days will have passed since the sudden end of the girls basketball state tournament last year.
So now that we know what day practices (Feb. 14) and games (March 3) will begin, that’s one big question that has been answered.
But as for questions such as what winter sports in West Virginia may look like when they return, and how other states have been playing high school sports while West Virginia is not, I reached out to three reporters throughout Nexstar Nation to find out
One state that has already seen winter sports begin, be paused, and then return is Pennsylvania, the current home state of former WBOY Sports Reporter, Mike Gilbert, who now works at WBRE in Wilkes-Bare, PA.
“High school basketball started kind of on time, and then what happened was, cases were climbing in the state of Pennsylvania,” said Gilbert. “So, the governor, Governor Wolfe, shut down sports for three weeks. And then they said, OK, high school sports can resume. There’s a lot of new protocols, like the kids who are playing high school basketball in Pennsylvania, they all have to wear masks, even when they’re playing.”
Crowd sizes, or the lack thereof, has been a noticeable difference at the start of this season in Pennsylvania.
“The biggest difference I noticed, is that in the beginning there were parents in the stands, and there was a little bit more of a crowd feel to it, whereas now they’re very strict as to who can watch the game, and there’s really no fans,” said Gilbert. “I was at a game last night between two of our local teams, and you could hear everything the coaches are saying, everything the refs are saying, because no one is really allowed to be in the stands.
“Besides that, all the kids and coaches are just saying they’re happy to be playing.”
Like with everything else over the last year, schedule changes have been plentiful across winter sports in PA, and in Ohio, as well.
WTRF’s Caroline Peters told us that notable annual holiday tournaments won’t be played due to the virus, and that West Virginia’s late start is affecting Ohio teams.
“We probably have ten percent of sports happening compared to what it usually is, because there’s no tournaments,” said Peters. “The OVAC (Ohio-Valley Athletic Conference) can’t operate the way it normally does when West Virginia can’t play.”
Peters also says Ohio athletes aren’t required to wear their masks while competing, but agreed with Gilbert in that sports at the high school level certainly haven’t had the same atmosphere this winter that they’ve had in year’s past.
She also echoes what many have said, in that the athletes just simply want to play.
As for two other neighboring states, high school teams in at least parts of Virginia are playing, according to WDVM’s Allif Karim. However, Maryland is taking a much different approach, and is working with a much shorter timeline, than West Virginia.
“Winter sports should’ve started the 19th, but now winter sports have been indefinitely suspended. Winter sports have to be done by a certain point, which is February 12,” said Karim. “Obviously that’s four weeks from now, so the longer it’s delayed the harder it gets for athletes, especially winter sports athletes, to have even one week of competition, because they still need that one week of practice.”
Karim said that Maryland is operating on a county-by-county basis, whereas Virginia has more of a state-wide model, similar to West Virginia and other surrounding states.
Not only that, but Maryland has decided against playing state tournaments for winter sports, like basketball, swimming and wrestling. That means titles will be claimed by teams in each county.
“Specifically Frederick County, I’m thinking that out of those six or seven high schools, one of them reigns supreme, but it still doesn’t have the same gravity as it would be to be Maryland state champions,” said Karim.
No matter what state you’re looking at, at least some teams are still waiting for their seasons get started. However, there are examples of what to do, and what not to do; and what high school sports could look and feel like when they are scheduled to return to the Mountain State next month.