By Marty Gordon
The Virginia High School League (VHSL) has given the green light for athletics to begin by the end of the year.
On Thursday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the fourth amended Executive Order 67, which includes changes to Section 12 related to recreational sports. These changes allow the VHSL Championship + 1 schedule to begin playing in December as scheduled.
The VHSL has released “Guidelines for Return to Participation” for school divisions. This document provides guidance for our schools to ensure a safe reopening of sports and activities.
Gov. Northam believes keeping student athletes safe is critical during this pandemic. “I know I join many parents in looking forward to the safe return of school sports. VHSL has been a tremendous partner throughout the COVID crisis, and I appreciate the thoughtfulness and diligence they have put in development of these guidelines for returning to play,” Northam said after the announcement.
VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said the amendment clears the way for all high school sports to play.
“We appreciate the time, effort, and input staff received while preparing this document,” Haun said. “Adherence to these guidelines will offer a safe reopening for our students, coaches, staff, officials and communities once we start playing in December. Additionally, we appreciate the close collaboration and guidance from the Governor’s office, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of
The amended executive order did not change the number of attendees permitted at a sporting event, which cannot exceed the lesser of 50% of the occupancy load or 250 persons. For sports played on a field, attendees are limited to 250 person per field.
The modifications outlined in “Guidelines for Return to Participation” are meant to decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets by encouraging social distancing, limiting participation in administrative tasks to essential personnel and allowing for appropriate protective equipment.
Recommendations include cleaning and disinfecting; mask protocols; transportation; and how to run activities safely for individual sports and activities.
Highlights in the guidelines include 1) Student-athletes will be required to wear face coverings while on the sidelines, in the dugout or not actively engaged in the competition. The same individuals will be required to wear masks when traveling to and from events. 2) Pre- and post-game handshakes are eliminated.
3) Post-game award ceremonies are also eliminated.
4) All fans must stand at least six feet from people they do not live with.
5) No seeds, gum or spitting by players.
6) In basketball, the jump ball will be eliminated with visiting team being given the first possession of the game.
7) In cross country, the VHSL recommends the course be widened to at least six feet at its narrowest point.
8) The sidelines in football will be extended to 20-yard line.
9) Faceoffs will be eliminated in lacrosse. A coin toss will determine which teams gets the ball to start the game and is then alternated throughout the game. After each goal, the non-scoring team will receive the possession.
10) Each sport will play 60 percent of the normal contests allowed.
11) Football will have seven dates to play six games.
12) Any game not played due to COVID-19 issues will be treated as a game not played versus a forfeit.
13) Every sport will hold a state championship.
14) The calendar allows for one week of region tournaments and one week for a state semi and finals. 15) Each region will only advance one team to state competition in all sports. Winter sports can begin practice on December 7 and games on December 21. Fall sports would start practice in February with games running through May. Spring sports would get underway in mid-April with games through June.
15) Teams conducting out-of-season workouts will continue to abide by Phase 3 Guidelines as established by the VHSL and the Virginia Department of Health, regardless of established adjustments allowed for in-season teams to conduct regular season and postseason events.