For months, coaches across the state have been waiting with bated breath for the Virginia High School League to make a determination on how to proceed with sports for the 2020-21 school year.
They got their long-awaited answer when the VHSL’s Executive Committee approved a model for the return of sports on Monday morning.
The league voted on three proposals, with Model 3 getting the nod by a near-unanimous 34-1 vote. The model allows winter sports to run from Dec. 14 to Feb. 20, fall sports (including football) to take place Feb. 15 through May 1 and spring sports to go from April 12 to June 26.
The other two proposals would have eliminated certain sports from the calendar altogether. Model 1 would’ve allowed golf and cross country to be played in the fall, with all other fall athletics being canceled. Meanwhile, Model 2 called for spring and fall sports to switch seasons, but “high-risk” spring sports like lacrosse would have been eliminated.
Area coaches were quick to react following the VHSL’s decision.
Eastern View head football coach Greg Hatfield, whose team has been holding offseason workouts under COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, said he didn’t see a better option for the league to appease all parties.
“I think it’s the best decision the [VHSL] could’ve made facing the situation they’ve been put in,” he said. “This model gives all student-athletes a chance to play their sport or sports and still be seen and recruited by colleges.”
Culpeper head coach James Ford, whose squad has also been working out, expressed relief at the ruling.
“I’m happy with the opportunity to possibly play football and all the other sports,” Ford said. “I’m still unsure about the logistics, but I’m optimistic about what lies ahead.”
In terms of logistics, squeezing all three sports seasons into a six-month span under the adopted plan means that teams will only play approximately 60 percent of their original proposed schedules, and traditional postseason play is unlikely. VHSL executive director Billy Haun said schedules and postseason formats will be finalized by Aug. 31.
A potential hurdle does exist with multi-sport athletes and the overlap in seasons, but those in charge believe it can be cleared.
“We will have to rearrange how we usually coach in order to accommodate the kids who are playing two sports,” said Liz Schumacher, who is the head coach for Eastern View’s field hockey and girls lacrosse programs. “But that’s doable. I’m just happy for the kids that they will be able to play both fall and spring sports.”
Schumacher added that, from a coaching standpoint, she doesn’t anticipate too many wrinkles from the overlap in field hockey and lacrosse campaigns.
“Thankfully, I have different assistant coaches for field hockey and lacrosse that I can count on to help me run things,” she said. “That will make things a little smoother.”
Culpeper athletic director Danny Nobbs said it would have been a difficult loss to swallow if any sports had been canceled.
“Sports offer so many lessons for our young people, so it’s great that they’ll still get those,” he said. “I’m very excited about giving our athletes and coaches a chance to once again be a part of sports, and I would like to thank the VHSL and its committees for their efforts during this uncertain time.”
“Hopefully things will continue to get better,” Hatfield added. “A lot of people have worked very hard for opportunities both on the playing field and in the classroom, so you want to see them get those.”