NCHSAA delays start of fall sports until at least Sept. 1

Phase One workouts will continue.

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 7/15/20

The NCHSAA has delayed the start of fall sports until at least September 1, the organization said in a  release Wednesday.

Phase One workouts, which have been alllowed since June 15, will …

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NCHSAA delays start of fall sports until at least Sept. 1

Phase One workouts will continue.

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Posted

The NCHSAA has delayed the start of fall sports until at least September 1 in reaction to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the organization said in a release Wednesday afternoon.

The NCHSAA board of directors approved the change Wednesday morning, a day after Gov. Roy Cooper announced schools will re-open next month under Plan B, a mix of in-person and remote learning. School districts may also individually opt for Plan C, a remote learning only option.

“For now, we believe these steps provide hope for our student-athletes, and the possibility for playing fall sports," commissioner Que Tucker said in the release.

Fall sport workouts and tryouts were previously set to resume as scheduled on Aug. 1. The start of the 2020-21 school year is set for Aug. 17.

Phase One workouts, which have been allowed since June 15, will "continue until futher notice," the NCHSAA said. All five of Chatham County's high schools are currently holding those workouts.

The board of directors also designated the first five days of school as a dead period for all sports , "allowing school staff to focus on the start of school," it said in the release.

"Each NCHSAA Board Member believes in the value of education-based athletics and is committed to SAFELY offering a fall, winter and spring sports program during this school year; however, there is also a commitment to the health and safety of students and coaches," Tucker said. "Towards this end, we all will continue to follow the guidance of the Department of Health and Human Services relative to the data and how we all safely move forward."

One immediate question that arose from Cooper's news conference was how some districts opting for Plan B and others for Plan C would affect fall sports.

Tucker said those evolving plans contributed to the NCHSAA's decision. Under the NCHSAA, public school districts and individual charter/parochial schools are considered local education agencies, or LEAs.

"After each LEA has had an opportunity to formalize and finalize those reopening plans, the NCHSAA Staff will survey the membership to determine how sports should and/or can fit into the various models that will exist across the state," Tucker said. "Please understand this delayed start date is not 'in cement' and can be delayed even further if we do not have improved data from DHHS, or some other reason exists for delaying further into September or beyond."

Last month, the NCHSAA gave those LEAs power to determine on their own when to resume workouts.

Chatham Charter, acting on its own, resumed workouts on June 15. The three schools under the Chatham County Schools system — Northwood, Jordan-Matthews and Chatham Central — resumed workouts on July 6, as did Woods Charter.

Since June 15, schools have been working out under Phase One guidelines, which limit outdoor groups to 25 and indoor groups to 10 total people. All participants get temperature checks and answer screening questions before practicing, and athletes cannot make contact with one another share equipment.

Tucker said the NCHSAA will work with its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee in the coming weeks to see if it can safely loosen those guidelines and move into a Phase Two of workouts. In that phase, equipment such as balls could potentially be shared.

The NCHSAA is planning to hold a media availabilty with Tucker "once decisions have been made about potential schedules and protocols have been finalized," which may be next week.

Here's Tucker's full statement in the NCHSAA's release:

“For now, we believe these steps provide hope for our student athletes, and the possibility for playing fall sports We know that many decisions are being made relative to the reopening plan your school(s) will follow.  After each LEA has had an opportunity to formalize and finalize those reopening plans, the NCHSAA Staff will survey the membership to determine how sports should and/or can fit into the various models that will exist across the state.  Please understand this delayed start date is not “in cement” and can be delayed even further if we do not have improved data from DHHS, or some other reason exists for delaying further into September or beyond. "

"We acknowledge that playing certain sports are more problematic at any time without a vaccine; however, we remain in consultation with our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) members, and they believe we can and should offer a sports program, with all necessary modifications, delays, etc.  In the coming weeks, we will continue working with the SMAC as we plan our next steps for the fall, as well as determining when equipment could be shared—i.e. balls— and/or if we can move into Phase 2 of the summer workouts/conditioning."

"Each NCHSAA Board Member believes in the value of education-based athletics and is committed to SAFELY offering a fall, winter, and spring sports program during this school year; however, there is also a commitment to the health and safety of students and coaches.  Towards this end, we all will continue to follow the guidance of the Department of Health and Human Services relative to the data and how we all safely move forward."

"We are in this together, and we will play again!"

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

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