ALBEMARLE –– In summer of uncertainty for high school athletic departments, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association provided another curveball for coaches and teams throughout the state last Wednesday.
Just one day after Gov. Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina’s public schools would be able to reopen under a hybrid plan of in-person and remote learning, the NCHSAA informed its membership that practice for fall sports will not be able to begin until at least Sept. 1.
According to NCHSAA guidelines, football players are required to have at least eight practice days (including three in full pads) before playing a game. Typically, teams schedule two weeks of practice before playing a game, but Sept. 10 will now be the earliest possible date that a matchup could be per NCHSAA rules.
In a media release, Commissioner Que Tucker announced that this latest update was based on a unanimous vote by the association’s board of directors.
“For now, we believe these steps provide hope for our student athletes, and the possibility for playing fall sports,” Tucker said in an email to NCHSAA membership. “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.”
The NCHSAA provided another change to athletic schedules — workouts during the first five student days of the school year will not be allowed. Despite that, teams will still be able to continue with limited summer conditioning guidelines that were mandated under Phase One of the NCHSAA’s return plan.
Ultimately, the fate of fall sports is subject to change based on COVID-19 data provided by the DHHS, according to Tucker.
“We acknowledge that playing certain sports are more problematic at any time without a vaccine,” Tucker wrote. “However, we remain in consultation with our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee members, and they believe we can and should offer a sports program, with all necessary modifications, delays, etc.”