CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The annual three-week practice period got underway Monday at high school athletics facilities across the state.
But with COVID-19 cases on the rise throughout West Virginia – even forcing one West Virginia high school to shut down workouts on Monday – we spoke with WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan on the topics of the Phase 1 and 2 conditioning periods, and what could be the scenarios and factors for high school sports moving forward.
When asked about the first two phases that allowed teams to workout, Dolan said, “I think everybody liked the first two phases gave them an opportunity to get back with their kids, and begin to reconnect. And then also, while they’re doing that, they’re starting to get in shape. It’s one thing to work by yourself to get in shape, it’s another thing to be pushed by your coach. So, it’s certainly a different level.”
Asked if the extra time together in the summer could become a regular occurrence moving forward, Dolan said that schools’ flex days will continue serving that purpose in the future.
On the other hand, moving the sports calendar involving fall sports, although a last resort, could happen.
“If something would happen and we would have to move sports to a different season, we probably would have to limit the number of games,” said Dolan. When asked how bordering states factor into the equation he said, “if you’re out of state opponents aren’t doing things, you’re probably going to be contained to your in-state.”
While Governor Jim Justice announced Monday that, starting Tuesday, masks must be worn inside, athletics teams still have options.
“We’ve encouraged our coaches and the kids to wear the face mask when appropriate, if they’re not doing anything that has vigorous activity then they should have the face mask on. If you can’t keep that social distancing, you also should have the mask on,” said Dolan.
He added that it’s currently too early to tell how much or how often teams and coaches will be required to wear face masks during the season.
When it comes to any decisions for this fall regarding wearing face coverings, fans in the stands, and whether or not there will be sports this fall, Dolan says that decision will come at a later date.
Health departments at the state and local level, he says, will have a large amount of input regarding whether or not fans can be in attendance at sporting events this fall and winter.
Coaches have also been wondering what happens to their team and their season if a player(s) or coach(es) test positive in the fall. 14 days, at least, has been the time health officials have recommended for people to quarantine once the have virus.
If that would force a team to not be able to play, that would count as a no contest, and not a forfeit. Dolan added that the WVSSAC’s points system and playoff requirements in football could be adjusted if that were to happen.
The WVSSAC also will follow in line with the Department of Education if or when an ultimate decision on the status of school and sports this fall needs to be made.
Dolan does say that ultimately, the fate of fall sports rests on everyone’s shoulders.
“I really honestly believe that it’s going to be in the hand of the public as to whether or not we have high school, college sports. If we want high school sports I think everybody has to take personal responsibility, and help everybody involved.”