WVSSAC: The latest sports recommendations
By Chapin Jewell
As expressed in previous articles related to the fate of fall sports, even school itself, in West Virginia and beyond, the situation is fluid. The implication therefore is that despite the best laid plans of administrators and their accompanying announcements related to those plans, things are subject to change. The fluidness of the situation dictates that.
Currently, West Virginia’s high school sports sanctioning body, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC), is operating under the understanding that fall sports are on, albeit with a modified time schedule.
As previously reported, the start of official practice for all sports was pushed back two weeks from Aug. 3 to the new date of Aug. 17.
While the start of practice for all fall sports is currently set for Aug. 17, the date by which individual sports can hold their first official contests varies. Golf can get off to the quickest start, as the first golf matches are allowed to begin one day after the start of practice on Aug. 18.
For boys’ and girls’ cross country, boys’ and girls’ soccer, cheer and volleyball, the first meets, games and matches can begin Sep. 2.
Football’s first official scrimmages can be held Aug. 28 after 4 p.m., with the first football games set to begin as early as Sep. 3.
That’s the current situation and that’s the current timeline, but again, everything is subject to change. As we have learned from events in Mineral and nearby Hampshire counties, at any give time, based on current events and test results, an individual county can put the brakes on to halt activities as needed.
If things are a go come Aug. 17, however, high school sports will commence with the modified timeline, and perhaps most importantly, with a new set of sports-specific modifications, both as recommendations and requirements. So how might your favorite sport look different this fall? Let’s take a look.
Per the WVSSAC, there is to be no stunting for the entire season, including all competitions and games. Cheerleaders are supposed to be properly spaced on the court, field or sidelines to ensure social distancing. Open portion of regional and state competition will be reduced to a maximum of 2:00. Changes in the score sheet will include an addition of five points for jumps, increase dance from eight to 10, increase tumbling from seven to 10, eliminate 10 points for partner stunts/pyramids.
Currently, there have been no modifications announced for cross country by the WVSSAC.
For golf, the WVSSAC has offered a multitude of recommendations: Social distancing should be present at all times. Stay six feet away from each other. Wear facial coverings when social distancing cannot be maintained. Do not shake hands with other golfers. We recommend a tip of the cap for greeting and congratulations. Do not share equipment at any time, including tees, ball markers, golf balls, etc.
We strongly recommend that the flag stick stay in the hole at all times. Please refrain from touching the flag stick. The WVSSAC takes COVID-19 precautions very seriously. Players intentionally violating the above precautions will be disqualified.
In addition, the WVSSAC urges all golfers to review the symptoms of COVID-19 on the Center for Disease Control’s website and if you are experiencing the symptoms or have traveled recently to a hot spot it is asked that you stay home. Also, wash your hands frequently and review the How to Protect Yourselves and Others document from the CDC.
For football, the WVSSAC began with a set of requirements. First, the coaching box was extended on the sidelines for social distancing purposes form the 15-yard line to the 15-yard line. All water provided will be in individual containers, there will be no public water sharing systems.
The sidelines are to be limited to essential personnel only (coaches, trainers, managers, etc.). Everyone on the sidelines must wear face coverings. Extend timeouts and length of time between quarters to two minutes. Social distancing announcements should be made over the PA throughout the contest. Band is not to travel to away games.
Also, for football, the WVSSAC has announced a set of recommendations. Travel with fewer players to away games and dress less players for home games. Modify pre-game meals. Use extra dressing facilities and come partially dressed to away games. Dress is smaller pods of 10-15 at a time. Conduct halftimes in the end zones or other outside areas instead of dressing rooms.
Use pay-per-view options for schools to reclaim lost revenue if attendance is impacted. Modify transportation to West Virginia State Department and county guidelines. No pre or post game handshakes. Use electronic tickets instead of traditional tickets. Have hand sanitation stations on the sidelines. Use CDC COVID-19 screening questions and follow local health department guidelines for reporting suspicious cases. Use VDC and WV DHHR guidelines for cleaning equipment and facilities. Recommend that cheerleaders do not travel to away games. Face shield information will be made available to schools.
Per the WVSSAC, the following modifications are advised for soccer: Electronic whistles may be used. At the pre-game conference, limit number of people (one player only). Keep hands to yourself, which means no handshakes before or after game, hand slaps, high fives, back slaps, etc. Student athletes must use own bottles of water, no sharing. Teams are allowed one scrimmage, no soccer-o-rama. Limit use of dressing rooms as much as possible and come to games dressed. Extend the team area on sidelines from 20 yards to 30 yards.
Per the WVSSAC, the following modifications are advised for volleyball: Regular season tournaments are limited to three teams if one court and four teams if two courts, which includes all regular season tournaments rather in or out of state. No switching benches between games. In the pre-match conference, referee one and referee two will meet both head coaches at center court, with rosters being submitted to the official’s table.
Suspend the coin toss and allow the visiting team to decide if they will serve or receive in set one and alternate for remaining undeciding sets. For deciding test, home team coach will decide to serve/receive. Limit personnel at official’s table to two scorekeepers and one timer only. Libero trackers can be at the end of the bench, behind the official’s table, etc. Avoid hand shakes, hand/back
slaps, huddles, etc.
Electronic whistles permitted. Reduce the number of people traveling when possible. Do not supply water bottles or cups for shared use. Each athlete is responsible for bringing their own water. No shared water stations, coolers, etc. Teams may only have one scrimmage against one other team, no previews allowed. Facial coverings are required if social distancing is not possible.
In summation, fall sports, for now at least, are on in West Virginia per the WVSSAC, albeit on a delayed schedule. If they do get played, as the above information describes, there will be significant modifications to what spectators, players and coaches are accustomed to. These modifications and changes, however, are the trade-off for possibly having sports in the first place.